KOCHI: The CBI has decided to close the investigation into the alleged irregularity by the owners of an estate in Nelliyampathy, in which a loan was taken by pledging land leased from the government. The CBI on Saturday filed a closure report before the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in this regard.
The CBI decided to close the case related to irregularities in pledging 486.63 acres of land by Miraflores Estate in Nelliyampathy.
The accused in the case were owners of the estate, Sebastian Chokkattu, his wife Philomena Chokkattu, an unnamed staff of the KSIDC, an unnamed official of the Revenue Department and an unnamed official of the Registration Department. They were charged under Sections 120(B), 420, 447, 465, 468, 471, 421 and 167 of the IPC. The CBI has been investigating six graft cases against owners of various estates in Nelliyampathy for similar offences. According to CBI, the charges levelled by the Forest Department that Miraflores Estate pledged forest land for availing loan by encroaching into it were found to be false.
According to the CBI, Miraflores Estate was leased out by the Government of Cochin to British planters for cultivating cash crops. The tenure of the lease was perpetual. The 10,000 acres of land in Nelliyampathy, including the land of Miraflores, was declared as ‘reserve forest’ by a notification brought out in 1909 and 1933. However, the land was leased out for plantation in 1936. In 1994, Sebastian, who owned the Trend Group of Companies, took Miraflores Estate on lease. Later, the Trend Group approached the Kerala State Industries Development Corporation (KSIDC) for a loan, in 1996, and a loan of Rs 9.98 crore was allotted to the company without any collateral security, with the approval of the board of directors of the KSIDC. However, the company failed to repay the instalments of the loan on many occasions, due to financial problems. Subsequently, the KSIDC issued a notice to the Trend Group. Later, Sebastian and his wife pledged their lands at Paravoor and Kakkanad as collateral security against the loan. As per the rules, leased land cannot to be auctioned and sold.
The CBI found that owners of the estate had repaid around Rs 4.5 crore in instalments to the KSIDC against the loan, before they encountered financial difficulties. Also, the government had given around Rs 2.3 crore to the KSIDC for taking over the land pledged by the owners of the estate at Paravoor and Kakkanad.
The Trend Group had also paid Rs 3.5 crore to the KSIDC as part of a one-time settlement when the revenue recovery was initiated. In total, the KSIDC has collected around Rs 10.76 crore from the estate-owners, which is more that the loan amount. It was also found that the Trend Group had regularly paid the lease amount to the government.