US NRI stores to keep "illegal products" out | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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US NRI stores to keep "illegal products" out

PTI | ByLalit K Jha (HindustanTimes.com), Minneapolis
Jun 28, 2005 03:31 PM IST

The AACSA is initiating an awareness campaign against the sale of illegal products, reports Lalit K Jha.

Stung by the "Operation Meth Merchant" in which as many as 43 Indian-Americans were arrested in Georgia for allegedly selling ingredients used in manufacture of methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant, the Gujaratis dominated convenience store owners of the US have formed a joint platform to 'initiate measure' to ensure that such a humiliating episode is not repeated.

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The first national convention of the recently formed Asian American Convenience Stores Association (AACSA) would be held on July 9 at Tempa in Florida, announced its president Satya Shaw, in an exclusive interview to The HindustanTimes.com.

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"One of the major objectives of the convention is to initiate a awareness campaign among convenience store owners is how to avoid sale of "illegal products" and also various legal aspects in the aftermath after Operation Meth," Shaw said.

As per an estimate of the about 130,000 convenience stores in the United States, nearly 80,000 are Asian-Americans which include more than 65,000 Gujaratis. Both Georgia and Florida has a massive concentration of Gujaratis as owners of convenience stores.

While the association was in the making for quite some time now, it only became active after the arrest of 43 Indian-Americans early this month for allegedly selling meth.

"Out of 43, as many as 38 were Patels. Though, the law is taking its own course and the guilty should be punished but we feel most of them were not aware of the implication of selling such a product," said the association chairman, Chandra Patel.

"Thus the need to launch such a mass awareness campaign among the convenience stores owners was more so because many of them knew mostly Hindi and Gujarati. If they were not aware, they might be even trapped," Patel said.

The association has even hired few reputed attorney to help out the arrested convenience store owners fight their legal battle. Many of them were released on bonds ranging from $10,000 to $ 50,000 (about Rs. 4.5 lakhs to about Rs. 22.5 lakhs).

Such has been the overwhelming response from the Asian convenience store owners that within a short period about 10,000 have already become member of the association, Patel claimed. "At this speed, we believe that soon we would become one of the largest Indian organizations in the United States," he observed.

At the day-long convention, Patel said, a special session has been devoted on this issue: "Views on Atlanta Case and how to avoid legal problems". Majority of the arrests made by the federal agencies early this month were in Atlanta area of the Georgia province.

The Attorney General of Florida, Charlie Christ, too has been roped. "He has agreed to deliver the key note address," he said.

Among other topics taken up for discussion are how to motivate employees for loyalty and honesty, how to avoid pitfalls in buying a store, how to save on financing, marketing, insurance, accounting and legal and how to increase safety and security of convenience stores, Patel said.

Following an 18-month investigation, the federal authorities early this month arrested as many as 49 convenience store owners and store clerks. While, many people alleged that it appeared to be an ethno-centric operation, Government officials strongly refuted it.

The incident however highly demoralized and shocked the community.

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