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Land scam: Mehul Choksi, aides bought 25 acres for diamond SEZ that never took off

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Feb 06, 2019, 11.33 AM IST
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Gitanjali Gems Ltd twice represented the case before the development commissioner (industries) on April 15 and 24, 2017.

Highlights

  • Records show Choksi bought land for a diamond SEZ in his own name and a few of his associates, and not in his company's, in violation of SEZ regulations.
  • Choksi and aides own 25 acres in Panvel worth Rs 300 crore at current market prices.
(This story originally appeared in on Feb 06, 2019)
NAVI MUMBAI: Diamantaire Mehul Choksi's name has cr-opped up in suspicious land deals dating back to 2008 for a Panvel-based gems and jewellery special economic zone that never got off the ground.

Records show Choksi bought land for a diamond SEZ in his own name and a few of his associates, and not in his company's, in violation of SEZ regulations. Choksi and aides own 25 acres in Panvel worth Rs 300 crore at current market prices.

His company, Gitanjali Gems Ltd (GGL), was to buy the land in two Panvel villages that fell in the green zone then, with the stated purpose of setting up an SEZ. The Panvel tehsildar's office is investigating this case.

Documents, copies of which are with TOI, show that GGL had applied for the SEZ on 25 acres of land before Malini Shankar, the then development commissioner (industries), in Chirvat and Sangurli villages in 2008 under Mumbai Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act 1948. The two villages then fell in the green zone.

The order came with three riders. One, GGL had to obtain permission from the planning department and MMRDA to convert the green zone land in the two villages for bona fide industrial use. Accordingly, GGL had submitted an affidavit for the green zone permission. Two, the land was to be purchased within two years, and three, put to industrial use within five years from the order date, March 31, 2008. Else, the land owners would have the right to repurchase the land at the same purchase price. The land is yet to be returned to the original owners, though.

On May 4, 2017, Vikas Jain, the then development commissioner (industries), cancelled the purchase order, citing that the government had withdrawn the permission granted for the SEZ using the sunset clause. GGL twice represented the case before the development commissioner (industries) on April 15 and 24, 2017. Lack of progress in submissions, though, finally led to cancellation of the land purchase order.

Vinod Lachake, Panvel tehsildar office senior clerk, said: "The SEZ land purchase and cancellation orders have been received from the Raigad collector. The land details are being checked. Nowhere is GGL mentioned or represented by Choksi in the 7/12 land extracts." A 7/12 document is an extract from the land register which gives details about a plot.

Activist Santosh Thakur said: "The green zone villages were denotified around 2012 following objections." RTI activist Bharat Jadhav said: "People in nearby areas do not even know a gems SEZ was to come up. Their land was purchased at throwaway prices with agents as middlemen." A Chirvat villager said: "No one has sought the land back two years after the order was cancelled."

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