NCP leader and former finance minister Jayant Patil on Tuesday claimed that a confidential report of the state home ministry on financial irregularities in lottery operations during the Congress-NCP government was prepared without consultation with the finance ministry.
Jayant Patil was finance minister and and the late R R Patil the home minister when the report was assigned and completed. The report, kept under wraps for over a decade, was never discussed in the Congress-NCP Cabinet.
The report had ordered closure of online lotteries in the state and also exposed irregularities in the operation of the government lottery department, pointing out the losses incurred by the state treasury.
The BJP government on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the scam.
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State Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “There are two aspects to the lottery scam. One relates to the non-recovery of taxes worth Rs 933 crore between 2007-09 from private operators. Second, there are issues of mismanagement where rules were violated.”
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Mungantiwar said, “I have asked for a report in two weeks on the quantum of losses incurred in the past 15 years, and also status of the Rs 933-crore taxes that have to be recovered from private operators. The private players have networks outside India and it would be a difficult task. So, if required, we will hand over the investigations to the CBI.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Jayant Patil said, “Frankly, I was never aware of any such confidential report by the home department even though I was holding the finance ministry. But when matters came to light through discussions in the Assembly, I contested the contents, which were compiled without talking to the departments concerned in the ministry of finance.”
While dismissing the entire report as baseless and factually incorrect, Patil said, “During my tenure, I brought in major reforms that helped to boost revenue. At the outset, I was in favour of total ban on the online lottery. But several MLAs persuaded the government to continue with it.”
Patil also pointed to some discrepancies. “While the Maharashtra State Lottery was being subjected to police harassment, there was no action against private operators from other states.”
“The state government strictly adhered to the central guidelines on lottery,” he asserted. It must be mentioned that the “confidential report” stated how a “private operator M/s Martin Lottery Agencies controlled the Maharashtra State Lottery operations sitting in Chennai.” It says the “Maharashtra State Lottery Board, whose chairman is the minister of finance, not only considered Martin’s lone tender, but also gave it repeated extensions.”
Patil contested this.
“The private operators never handled the main server. The government held complete control and professionals operated it. All the claims in the report are baseless.”
In 2007, the then home minister R R Patil had ordered a CID probe headed by the then additional director general of police S P S Yadav into the lottery scam. The findings alleged a nexus between the Ministry of Finance and the private lottery company and advocated immediate closure of online lottery in the state.