Crorepati ex-union leader of Taj booked for swindling union's funds

  • Vijay Kumar Yadav, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2014 20:40 IST

A former union leader at the Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, who hit headlines a few years ago as the country’s highest paid union leader with an annual pay package of Rs 1.53 crore, has been booked by the Colaba police for allegedly siphoning Rs 26.71 lakh from the union’s funds.

On September 15, Basil Frank Beretto, 55, human resources (HR) assistant at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, who is also the incumbent general secretary of The Indian Hotels Company Employees’ Union, registered an FIR against former union leader Pervez Pestonji Saher, 65, and three others. A copy of the FIR is with HT.

Saher, who was a senior laundry operator at Taj, joined the company in 1974 and retired on April 30, 2012. In 2009, newspapers reported that he was the country’s highest paid union leader, on the basis of the annual report of The Indian Hotels Company Ltd.

According to the police, Beretto’s complaint states that he and 17 others from his group were elected to the union’s working committee in July 2012 and were appointed to various posts in the committee at the hotel employees’ general meeting on September 1, 2012. “Saher, despite retirement, continued interfering in the union’s work. Hence, the members of the working committee, in a special general meeting, passed a mandate and dismissed Saher and the previous working committee,” Beretto said in the complaint.

However, this made no difference to Saher, who, the complaint alleges, withdrew Rs 26.71 lakh from the union’s bank account between July 2012 and May 2014, with the help of the former president and former treasurer. “Beretto told us that this money was meant for the welfare of the employees, but Saher allegedly used it for personal gain,” said an officer from the Colaba police station.

The officer said, “The bank manager also helped Saher and other accused withdraw money belonging to the union, in spite of being informed that the union had elected a new working committee. Hence, he has also been made an accused in the case.”

The police said that there is an ongoing dispute between two factions for the union’s working committee, and the matter is in industrial court, Bandra. The police conducted a preliminary probe on Beretto’s allegations, and after finding sufficient material to register a case, booked Saher and three others under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. So far, the police have recorded statements of eight persons in the case, a source said. No arrests have been made so far.

Investigating officer, inspector Anil Shinde of the Colaba police station confirmed that the FIR has been filed against Saher and others, but refused to divulge the case details, saying that investigation is underway.

When contacted, Saher said, “I have not been intimated about the case. When the police contact me, I will give them the details. Before that, I cannot speak to the media. Two cases are already underway, in this connection, one of which is in court.”

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