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From state lands to the chairmanship of two state institutions to financial facilities, Vinash (Avinash) Gopee and his businesses have been on a roll for the past few years. For the opposition, the businessman is clearly advantaged by the regime in power, while the businessman's entourage refutes these allegations.

The businessman's name regularly surfaces. This was the case once again on June 25 at the National Assembly. Labour MP Eshan Juman was able to obtain information from the Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance, Sunil Bholah, on the Financial Services Commission's (FSC) lease agreement for office space in Ebene.

It has been learnt that the 7 Exchange Square building has been providing “four to five floors” to the FSC since January for a monthly sum of Rs 4,655,150. The building is owned by Ng Holdings Ltd, whose director is Vinash Gopee. As of now, the offices are empty as the FSC has not yet moved its furniture and equipment there.

The Economic Development Board is also renting part of the building for the sum of Rs 3.59 million per month for 5,000 m2.

In Cybercity, which belongs to Landscope (Mauritius) Ltd, a state-owned company, the Gopees have several buildings. In addition to 7 Exchange Square, they also own the NG Tower, several floors of which serve as the group's headquarters and registered office.

Rs 350 million from the Mauritius Investment Corporation

During the financial year 2020/21, Luxury Retirement Village, incorporated on October 20, 2017, obtained Rs 350 million from the Mauritius Investment Corporation, a company owned by the Bank of Mauritius. It was created to help businesses affected by covid-19, but also to assist companies that have interesting projects for the Mauritian economy. Luxury Retirement Village is piloting the Royal Green Luxury Retirement Estate project and runs a private clinic there.

Avinash Gopee: 'I can't stop people from talking'

Contacted by Le Défi Plus on Friday, July 5, 2024, Avinash Gopee said: “I can’t stop people from talking. I’m just a businessman.” He asked if the organizations that rent offices didn’t rent them before.

Gopee galaxy

PNQ rejected in Parliament on Friday

The Speaker: “Only one topic should be addressed in a question”

On Friday, Sooroojdev Phokeer explained why he rejected Opposition Leader Arvin Boolell's Private Notice Question (PNQ) on Vinash Gopee, a businessman and political nominee.

In the National Assembly, late in the afternoon on Friday, 5 July 2024, Sooroojdev Phokeer explained his reasons for rejecting the Private Notice Question (PNQ) from the Leader of the Opposition, Arvin Boolell, earlier in the day. The question concerned businessman Vinash Gopee, a political appointee on several government bodies. “Only one subject should be addressed in a question…” said the Speaker.

In justifying his decision, he relied on Standing Orders 21(1) and 21(2). These provide that “the proper purpose of a question must be to obtain information about a matter within the special competence of the Minister to whom it is addressed” and “questions may be put to Ministers concerning any public business with which they are officially connected, or any matter of administration for which those Ministers are responsible”.

According to Sooroojdev Phokeer, “A review of the PNQ as submitted does not comply with the above-mentioned internal regulations, as it contains four different subjects addressed to different ministries for which the Prime Minister is not responsible. Apart from covering several areas, the PNQ as formulated was open-ended, vague and lacked precision as to the alternative to rejecting it.”

Rajesh Bhagwan expelled and suspended for several sessions

Although expulsions of opposition members have become commonplace in the National Assembly, Friday's incident was unusual in that Speaker Sooroojdev Phokeer asked all the police officers standing guard outside the chamber to intervene and arrest MMM MP Rajesh Bhagwan who was leaving the chamber after being evicted.

The Speaker then asked Rajesh Bhagwan to “apologise unreservedly to the House, failing which I will have no alternative but to ask him to withdraw from the Chamber”. Earlier, Bhagwan had said at a press conference to protest the opposition leader's rejection of the PNQ: “Who is the speaker? Speaker pe azir kouma azan politik. Kouma azan MSM. Speaker inn met his manto azan politik. Pravind Jugnauth inn donn li lord.”

Sooroojdev Phokeer believes that these words “brought discredit upon my conduct in the exercise of my functions as Speaker and offended the dignity of the House”. Faced with Rajesh Bhagwan's refusal to comply, the Speaker had to demand that the Serjeant-at-Arms, as well as other police officers, intervene to expel the purple MP.

Patrick Assirvaden: “We wonder if Avinash Gopee is someone's front man”

Following the rejection of Opposition Leader Arvin Boolell's Private Notice Question (PNQ) on businessman Vinash Gopee, the opposition PTr/MMM/ND held a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“This is a dark day for parliamentary democracy,” says Arvin Boolell. “It is unacceptable that politically and parliamentaryly correct questions are being rejected without justification based on Standing Orders and Erskine May,” he adds.

The latter recalls that “the PNQ is a powerful weapon of the opposition”. The subject of his PNQ, Arvin Boolell claims to have sent it at 8:45 am to the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly. “It concerned a single subject, the person named Vinash Gopee, who receives facilities from several ministries. I ask the question if there are not decisions taken to grant him facilities and tailor-made contracts”, he declares.

According to the modus operandi of Parliament, meetings take place between the Clerk and the Leader of the Opposition to finalize the PNQ and possibly make corrections. “On Tuesdays, when Parliament starts at 11:30, in less than 45 minutes the corrections are made.”

On Friday, the proceedings began at 4 pm. “All the ministries and institutions concerned have started providing information. I say this with full knowledge of the facts. But, it was only at 1.10 pm that I received a call from the Clerk telling me that the question was rejected. I asked her the reason, she quoted me sections 21 and 22 of the Standing Orders. She said that the question must relate to a subject, but the question was clear and it referred to the subject of Vinash Gopee,” Arvin Boolell complained.

According to his information, the Economic Development Board signed a 10-year contract for a building that did not yet exist at the time of signing the contract for a monthly amount of Rs 4.1 million. “Over 10 years, this rental covers the construction costs of the entire building. And it does not stop there. There is also the Financial Services Commission which rents floors without using them and pays Rs 50 million per year,” says the opposition leader.

For him, it is the Prime Minister's duty to “say whether the exercise was carried out in complete transparency and whether good governance was respected.”

Aborted attempt on the geometric steps of Anse-La-Raie

Last year, Luxury Suites, owned by the NG Group, had obtained a “letter of reservation” for several acres on the geometric steps of Anse-La-Raie to build a hotel establishment there. Faced with the outcry from the inhabitants of the region, Avinash Gopee, director of the group, announced, on November 25, 2023, in a press release that he was abandoning the project. He was going to ask for a refund of the deposit made to the authorities for the land.

At the head of state institutions

Vinash Gopee is the chairman of two government boards. On February 28, 2020, just over four months after the 2019 general elections, he became the chairman of the Tourism Authority. This parastatal is responsible for licensing tourism operators, which include restaurants and hotels.

In June 2022, he also became the chairman of the board of Drains Infrastructure Construction Ltd. This is a new state company created to manage drain works across the country. An envelope of Rs 10.4 billion had been entrusted to it at the creation of this company.

In 2018, Vinash Gopee was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mauritius Multisports Infrastructure Ltd, a state-owned company in charge of the Côte-d'Or sports complex.

Soodesh Callichurn: 'The opposition leader knew his question was unacceptable'

At a press conference late Friday afternoon, Soodesh Callichurn and Maneesh Gobin, respectively Minister of Labour and Attorney General, defended the Speaker who rejected the opposition leader's PNQ earlier in the day.

“The opposition leader asked the prime minister about several aspects in the same question. There is the aspect of land allotted to a certain VG (Vinash Gopee), the aspect of rent paid to this person and his companies, his appointments and contracts allotted to this person. It is clear why the Speaker could not admit the question,” said Soodesh Callichurn.

The latter specifies that “in the question, there are several ministries concerned whereas a PNQ must concern the minister to whom the question is put. The Speaker had no other option than to refuse this question which goes against Standing Order No 21”.

He added that “the purpose of this question was politically motivated. The opposition leader deliberately asked such a question, because he and the PTr knew that this question could not be admitted.

He accuses the opposition of wanting to portray the Speaker “as a person who has no regard for democracy. I leave it to the people to draw their own conclusions.”

Maneesh Gobin said, “The Speaker has the right to reject a question as stipulated in the Standing Orders of Parliament. People should understand that the opposition is playing a political game and diverting attention. A question should not be about a person, but about a subject that should be related to the minister concerned. For example, I cannot be asked a question, part of which concerns the Ministry of Labour.”

The wording of the PNQ which was rejected

Below is the wording of the PNQ which was rejected by the Speaker of the National Assembly:

“With regard to Mr VG will the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Home Affairs and External Communication, Minister for Rodrigues, Outer Islands and Territorial Integrity, obtain from all ministries, parastatal organisations and government-controlled companies from 2015 to date:

  • All plots of land sold/leased to him and/or his related companies;
  • All rentals paid to him and/or his related companies;
  • All his nominations and corresponding fees; and
  • All contracts above MUR 80M awarded to him and/or his related companies. »

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