Panaji: The Russian mafia could be operating in Goa, just as the Indian tourism mafia could be operating in Pakistan, said Russia’s newly-appointed honorary consul Victor Albuquerque here today.
Albuquerque, a reputed businessman in Goa was speaking to reporters in his first media conference after being appointed honorary consul a couple of months ago.
Asked to respond if he could categorically confirm or deny whether Russian mafia was present in Goa, known to attract 125,000 Russian tourists annually, Albuquerque did neither.
He instead said: “There is mafia in tourism everywhere. The Indian mafia also operates in Pakistan. You don’t have to be from a place to run a mafia”.
The involvement of the Russian underworld representatives in tourism as well as real estate-oriented deals along coastal Goa has been much debated over the last few years, which have coincided with the significant rise in Russian tourist arrivals to the state.
Both the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have over the years red-flagged several real estate deals along the coastline, which were allegedly funded by front men for the Russian mafia, an issue which has been raised in the state legislature by legislators across party-lines as well as in parliament.
Albuquerque, who is one of the biggest handlers of Russian charter flights, said some anti-social elements could also land in Goa along with the thousands of genuine Russian tourists and added that it was his job to look after the latter grouping.
Commenting on reports that Russians have virtually taken over two north Goan coastal beach villages of Morjim and Arambol running illegal businesses, operating hotels, taxi services and stores while still on tourist visas, he said: “But I believe that to clap you need two hands. Unless locals give support to such things, that will not happen.”
“Such things would not have happened in Punjab and Haryana. They would have been driven out,” he said.
Goa this season attracted over 1.25 lakh Russian tourists, who arrived in Goa from October 2012 to March 2013 to enjoy the warm tropical winter sun, at a time when winter is at its worst in Russia.