Even as the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, a unit of the US State Department, has told India that the former tourism minister of Goa, Francisco Xavier ‘Mickey’ Pacheco, may be involved in a massive immigration and money laundering racket, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat claimed to be unaware of this development.
Pacheco, known for his flamboyant lifestyle and beach parties, resigned as minister on June 6 following allegations of his involvement in the mysterious death of his companion Nadia Torrado. He was arrested on July 9 and bailed on July 26 — around the same time when the US first alerted India about his alleged role in the racket.
Top government sources said the Bureau of Diplomatic Security first got in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) through the US mission in New Delhi, and has since backed the allegations against Pacheco with documents and details of banking transactions. The evidence is being described as “substantive and watertight”.
After high-level discussions, the MEA passed the case on to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is now making an assessment of the economic and criminal violations the ex-minister might have committed.
CBI officials confirmed the receipt and scrutiny of the evidence provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The US advisory followed the arrest of several Goans at various American airports, all of whom were found to be travelling on fake travel documents, and linked in some way with Pacheco. In several cases where Pacheco had recommended the issuance of visas, supporting documents submitted by the applicants were found to be fake or forged.
Investigations by US authorities have revealed that Pacheco has, “as of now”, a balance of above $15 million in banks in the US, and has recently made transfers of around $2 million to India. Details of all the relevant bank accounts and transactions have been handed over to Indian authorities.
CBI officials said the US has provided the entire documentation in four or five of the illegal travel and immigration cases. In some other cases, details are awaited. The CBI is likely to hand over the cases related to the transfer of foreign exchange to the Enforcement Directorate.
Pacheco has been building his political and financial base by recruiting Goans for overseas companies. In fact, this was the mainstay of his earlier company named Fransa.
Following the death of his partner Nadia Torrado, who was also his business partner, there were questions asked about the nature of the business the two ran which necessitated Ms. Torrado’s frequent travel overseas and it was whispered that the business was related to illegal immigration and money laundering.
Police investigating Ms. Torrado’s death were lost at sea as her laptop, which was reportedly containing information related to this business, and mobile which reportedly had the contact numbers of their associates overseas, were found to be missing.
Ms. Torrado’s mother, Sonia Torrado also came under a cloud as she directed her maid to burn all the documents and papers belonging to her daughter immediately after the death.
Besides Pacheco and Ms Torrado, two other close associates of the former minister are believed to be in the know of this business.
It would be pertinent to point out that Pacheco always spoke about having business in the USA and while not specifying what kind of business it was, dropped hints that he owned petrol pump outlets there, where it was believed that many Goan youth going to the USA were employed.
Significantly, while the Ministry of External Affairs has asked the CBI to investigate the matter, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat speaking to Goa Chronicle over the telephone said he was not aware of this development.
Incidentally, soon after Ms. Torrado’s death, Pacheco himself had asked that the investigations be conducted by the CBI claiming that he had no faith in Goa Police.