When a Convicted Businessman Attends a Presidential Banquet
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces as the honoured Chief Guest at India’s 68th Republic Day celebrations has played a pivotal role in cementing friendly relations between India and UAE. This is the second successive State Visit by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed to India. The first one was in February 2016. This is also a clear indication that he and the people of UAE have a special place for Indians in their heart.
As a part of the visit, President Shri Pranab Mukherjee had hosted a banquet dinner in honour of the Crown Prince, which was preceded by official discussions. The Prince also met Vice-President Shri Mohammed Hamid Ansari and had delegation-level discussions with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who also hosted a banquet lunch in honour of the visiting dignitary. Many dignified personalities from various sectors like business, media, finance etc. were present at the dinner. The meet also included NRI businessman Galfar Muhammadali, who was sentenced to 15 years by an Omani court for bribing a government official to get an extension of a contract granted by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). The criminal court in Muscat had in March 2014 sentenced him to 15 years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 27 crore.
He was released from jail as part of general amnesty in connection with the month of Ramzan in 2016. According to the sources, he had also resigned as the Managing Director of Galfar Engineering & Contracting Company following his conviction. Presence of the businessman who had received the biggest punishment till date in the Gulf, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan has raised eyebrows and many speculations are going around.
One of the major reasons for the celebrated friendship of the UAE and India is undoubtedly the connections Malayalees have with Middle-eastern countries. Malayalees have made UAE their second home. For many the place has been a source of livelihood, which is in turn boosting Indian economy with regards of NRI money and also developing the economy of Arab countries to a great extent. Not to forget that there are many Malayalee millionaires and business tycoons the UAE has created. Dr Yousuf Ali and Ravi Pillai are the couple of known rich and famous who constantly make investments to a level, so much so that neglecting them when it comes to bridging the gap between the countries, is impossible.
However, Galfar Muhammadali being invited to a function, where in mutual trade and economic development between two countries are being discussed does not feel logical as he is no longer the MD of the company. Moreover, he is a person who has been convicted for corruption in a gulf country, which has in turn tarnished India’s reputation abroad. Does this become an indication that a person no matter what he has done in the past, if he has useful contacts that can be used for the country, can get an invite to such an event? Or is it because none of the officials in the present government are aware of his conviction?
Though politicians were contacted for their comments, none them wanted respond. All they said were that it has no implications on the establishment and there is nothing to worry about a person taking part in a dinner and that his contributions should not be neglected.
President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony was also contacted for the same. However, he too was unavailable.