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Mauritius Turf Club wins it's first battle

Tuesday, 03 May 2022

This article obtained from a source in Mauritius provides some detail to the horse racing calamity currently facing the Mauritian horse racing community. We will be publishing further articles as they become available to Formgrids.

Monday 2nd of May, the Mauritius Turf Club (MTC), the sole horse racing organiser in Mauritius so far, has won its first battle to keep the Champ de Mars racecourse where it has been organising horse racing since 1812.

The Judge sitting in the Supreme Court of Mauritius granted an interim order in favour of the MTC until Wednesday 4th May 2022 when a final judgment will be delivered.

Evicted after nearly 210 years

The MTC has indeed had no other options but to lodge a request for an injunction in the Supreme Court of Mauritius against the decision of the Municipal Council of Port-Louis (MCPL) to terminate, with immediate effect, the “Concession of Privilege” granted to the MTC pursuant to an agreement dated 02 July 2008 and which is valid until 2028.

The MCPL, by way of a letter dated 27 April 2022, further informed the MTC that it was “resuming its full rights over the whole of Champ de Mars forthwith”.

The MTC was thus evicted from the Champ de Mars with immediate effect after nearly 210 years of occupation while it was still holding an agreement valid until 2028!!

Big Shock

This decision of the MCPL came as a shock to, not only the Mauritian racing community, but to all Mauritians as a whole, as in a period when Mauritius is rocked by an increase in the price of numerous basic commodities, including fuel, as well as loss of jobs and a decrease in purchasing power, the priorities of the authorities seemed to be about horse racing!

Horses would not be able to exercise

In addition, this eviction meant that the horses would not be able to exercise, the track being off limits to the MTC, and thus at risk of colics and other health hazards.

Sadly, the horses did not seem to be the priority of our decision-takers…

Following an outcry from various parties, worried about the horses’ health and well-being, the Ministry of Housing and Land Use Planning, which in the meantime got involved in lieu of the MCPL (!!!), granted the authorisation to the Horse Racing Division (HRD) to organise the training on Friday 29th April but without MTC employees!

License fees

MTC tried to pay its license fees to the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA), the regulatory body, but the latter declined to grant the license as the MTC now had no track!

The GRA later on organised a meeting with the MTC/MTCSL employees informing them of their duties BUT remuneration were to be paid by MTC/MTCSL!

Mauritius is now holding its breath

Mauritius is now holding its breath and waiting for the final judgment to be delivered in the Supreme Court of Mauritius by Judge Aruna Devi Narain on Wednesday 4th of May 2022.

Background

To understand this sordid affair, we should go back to the creation of the GRA. The GRA is a regulatory body set up by the government and the Horse Racing Division regulates MTC’s activities. Its Vice-Chairperson is one Dev Beekharry, who is close to the ruling party to which belongs the current Prime Minister.

In 2014, D. Beekharry was even the adviser to the former Prime Minister, Late Sir Aneerood Jugnauth, who happened to be the father of the current one, Pravind Jugnauth. He has also occupied various important positions during the current regime.

In 2021, and following the proclamation of the legislation against money laundering and financing of terrorism in 2020, the GRA requested the MTC (which has been up to that date operating as an “association”) to start operating as a private company. The MTC Sports and Leisure Limited was thus born in 2021.

Pursuant to a new provision in the law, each and every person involved in horseracing, from the owner to the jockey, was compelled to apply for a PML (Personal Management License), failing which they would not be allowed on the premises.

Needless to say, the application of Mr. Jean-Michel Giraud, President of the Mauritius Turf Club, was rejected for various reasons in 2021 and he never obtained his PML. Thus the President of the MTC was not given access during the 2021 racing season!!

The relationship between the MTCSL/MTC and the GRA gradually worsened and the latest incident took place when the GRA refused the payment made by the MTCSL on the 19 April 2022 and thus refused to issue the racing license.

Two weeks ago, everybody expected the kick-off of the racing season and the HRD even organised the draw, which became a mockery among the racing community, reason being that the MTC has been, until now, doing it in a professional way but the HRD staff used a paper bag to effect it. The meeting was finally never held.

Worth noting that the GRA had ordered that the racecards be finalised by its HRD!! The MTC/MTCSL rejected this condition as well as all conditions imposed by the GRA that it considered unreasonable. This is another legal battle.

It was becoming gradually more obvious that everything was being done to remove the MTC from the racing world to pave the way for a blue-eyed boy of the current ruling party, namely Jean Michel Lee Shim.

Amidst all the chaos, that gentleman who is very close to the Jugnauth family and the owner of SMS Pariaz, a betting company, has been constructing in a small village (Petit Gamin) in the north and on crown land obtained from the government, a huge and modern project with two tracks, one being of 1800 metres and the other of 800 metres, currently 80 boxes and upon completion, the facilities will also include a quarantine centre.

Mr. Lee Shim, through one of his straw men, Kulwant Ubheeram, has created a company, People’s Turf Club Plc, and has submitted an application for a horse racing organiser license to the GRA in April 2022. It poses itself as an alternative to the MTCSL for the 2022 racing season.

Twist in the story: While all stakesholders expected the golden boy of the current regime to obtain the licence, a new state-owned company, the Cote d’Or International Racecourse and Entertainment Complex Limited, with company number C187369, was incorporated according to official records on Friday 29th April 2022! The document was issued on the 1st of May 2022, which is not only a Sunday but also a Public Holiday in Mauritius – and thus not a working day!

What is even more shocking is the name of the Directors on the document: the same Dev Bheekharry who is the Vice-Chairman of the GRA as well as various individuals close to the ruling party!

The business address provided is that of the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.

All this smells of a huge conflict of interest, to say the least.

This is the first time that Mauritian horse racing is confronted to such a sad situation.

In this sad affair, the victims are obviously the horses as well as real horse lovers and horse racing lovers and professionals in the field.

The judgment expected to be delivered on Wednesday will thus be crucial to the future of horseracing in Mauritius.

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