Mauritius: The fall of the Ramgoolam dynasty

February 18, 2015 0 By WFTV

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At best, the authorities now have sufficient evidence at hand to nail Navin Ramgoolam for tax evasion and attempted money laundering (which is not similar to money laundering perhaps).

Global politics are rigged with well known dynasties, similar to the Gandhi family in India and the Bush family in the United States as well as the political dynasties of Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, but there is one in Mauritius that was little known until now: The Ramgoolam dynasty.
But the events in Mauritius since December last year has taken a path that could signal the end of the Ramgoolam dynasty in the tiny Island republic.
In 1985, the country was gearing to access to the status of ‘republic of Mauritius’ after decades of independence from Great Britain.
The nation was sent into mourning with the death of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, former Prime Minister and father of the independence in 1968.
After his death, accusations were hurled around Navin Ramgoolam who was said to have hijacked a suitcase with one million Mauritius Rupees in it.
There were also talks that a few other millions were in the official residence of the then Governor. Seewoosagur was promoted as the governor of the country, which was still under the British empire, and was living in the official residence of Le Reduit.
These were, according to observers, the very humble beginnings of suspicions against Navin Ramgoolam by former members of the Labour Party, a party that was in tatters after the massive defeat Sir Aneerood Jugnauth (SAJ) had inflicted on the ‘old man’ Ramgoolam.
SAJ consolidated his image as the giant killer when he defeated his former associate and protege Paul Raymond Berenger in the 1983 elections, which followed a nasty breakup of the Movement Militant Mauricien (MMM).
SAJ has now anchored his reputation as a no-nonsense man with the unveiling of the Navin affair, when RM200 million rupees were found in the former PM’s house stashed in two oversized safe.
Allegations went wild that the former PM was involved in illicit transactions, or was linked to some mafia organisations and stashed money he obtained from benefactors during the last General Elections in which he lost his seat, and his government was thrown into the dustbin of history.
Ramgoolam risk being charged for money laundering, a charge that could be difficult to prove since ‘blanchiment’ of money usually mean transferring money from an account or by physical transfer outside the official channels.
Ramgoolam would not be the first political figure who would have been involved in stashing money. His father was accused once, as we have seen above, while other political figures were also suspected of hiding money stash either in their homes or had wired money outside Mauritius in a suspicious manner.
Sir Gaetan Duval, former deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius and the leader of the Party Mauricien Social Democrat (PMSD) was rumored to be one of them, though it was never proven despite being jailed briefly in 1989.
A high profile MMM leader was once caught at the Plaisance Airport (that was before the airport was renamed Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport), with a briefcase carrying millions of Rupees. The money was eventually seized by the customs, and its fate was never known.
The MMM was in the opposition during that time – it has been in opposition for long spells indeed – and the money apparently came from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi regime.
The Ramgoolam affair will certainly take a different aspect when Ramgoolam is allowed to present his defense against the seizure of the stash at his home.
He will have the opportunity to present receipts, or bring around his benefactors who would be brave enough to establish his alibi and prove they were donated to the Labour party or that he won a lottery or something.
However, Ramgoolam will have a tough time too. How will he explain that he was keeping the money in his house, for fear of it being discovered by the authorities?
Will he tell the courts that he did not trust the banking system in Mauritius and had to hide the money, in a perpetuation of the old folk tales of stuffing money under the mattress?
Or that he was planning to bank the money in some accounts locally, but was taken aback by the sudden police charge against him?
Was he involved in some business, shady or not, that he did not declare his stash to the income tax?
At best, the authorities now have sufficient evidence at hand to nail Navin Ramgoolam for tax evasion and attempted money laundering (which is not similar to money laundering perhaps).
The truth of the matter will be revealed when Navin’s bank accounts are seized and dissected, though they might not reveal much in the end. Why?
If he trusted the banking system, he would not have kept RM200 million in his house.
Or will the investigators find a treasure hidden in secret banking accounts?
All said and done, it is apparent now that this is the end of the Navin Ramgoolam era and it could as well spell the end of the long reign of the Ramgoolam dynasty with the fall of Navin.