Riyadh: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has reportedly hired a company that has close links with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), to facilitate and process Haj applications.
Last week, authorities of Saudi Arabia had announced that the would-be Haj pilgrims from Australia, Europe, and the United States would need to apply for visas via the government portal Motawif, a move intended to crack down on what it called “fake” travel agencies.
This new process will ensure selection through an automated lottery system after which the selected pilgrims can book and purchase their transport and accommodation directly through the Saudi Arabia government portal.
According to a report by the Middle East Eye, an investor of the hired Dubai-based company Traveazy has ties with the government of India. Prashant Prakash, vice-president, and partner at venture capital firm Accel India has served on India’s National Startup Advisory Council since 2020, and in 2021 became a policy and strategy adviser to Basavaraj Bommai, the chief minister of the BJP-run government in Karnataka and a key Modi ally.
Furthermore, it was Prashant Prakash who led Accel into partnering with Traveazy in 2016 and later in 2018, Umrahme, a company run by Mohammed MS bin Mahfouz.
In 2018, Accel was part of a consortium of five partners who invested a further $16m into Traveazy, which was co-founded by Indian nationals Geet Bhalla and Digvijay Pratap.