While Goa reels under different land acquisition tactics employed by real estate developers; the Archdiocese of Goa though a strong supporter against rampant acquisitions of land, has in turn sold church property to Mahendra Gaunekar who then sold it to the Ozone Developers – a Bangalore-based real estate company for a handsome price and considerable equity in the project as well. GoaChronicle.com exposes the sinful act of the Church in Goa
In July last year when delivering a lecture on ‘Should there be a law to protect the properties of the Church’ organized by the All India Catholic Union (AICU), former Supreme Court Justice K T Thomas said that the Catholic Church’s hesitation to accept enactment of a law for administering properties was due to a fear that a provision for judicial scrutiny was likely expose its expenses and the magnitude of wealth it possesses.
Nothing can be truer than this statement in the light of the current controversy surrounding the Vanxim land acquisition by Ozone Developers. For the record, the developers have already started marketing the project on the website – Goa Ozone Island as it has been titled – in which the Archdiocese of Goa has sold its 81 acre property called ‘Raquelachi Shet’ situated at Vanxim Island to a local businessman Mahendra Gaunekar.
Post the acquisition of the property Gaunekar has now sold the property to Ozone Developers.
The ‘Agreement of Sale’ registered with the Sub-Registrar of Ilhas on 4th September, 1999; reveals that the Archbishop of Goa, through his attorney Fr Arlino de Melo had indeed sold 4,85,350 sqmts of land to Mahendra Gaunekar on behalf of the Archdiocese of Goa. The sale deed amount is Rs 37, 02,500.
While almost 30 per cent of the land was free from encumbrances, 70 per cent of the land continued to be tenanted agricultural land.
On 11th February, 2006 through a subsequent Deed of Transfer and Assignment of Rights between Mahendra Gaunekar and the Archbishop of Goa, an additional Rs 18,01,650 was paid to the Archbishop of Goa for 1,85,125 sqmts of property called the ‘Ilha de Capao’ situated on the Vanxim Island which formed the part of the 30 per cent untenanted property.
Furthermore the deed acknowledges that the tenanted 3,00,275 sqmts of property sold to Mahendra Gaunekar by the Archbishop of Goa is shown as paddy fields in the survey records. The Sale Deed, however, claims that no cultivation was done therein for several years and that the said area had remained fallow as the soil had become uncultivable and that the competent authority had issued necessary certificates to the effect.
The sale deed also stipulated that the Archdiocese would sign documents and papers including the applications for the transfer of the said plots of land in favour of the purchaser, Mahendra Gaunekar, in all government records, Panchayats and municipal records in the office of the Mamlatdar, Talathi or in any other government or semi-government authorities and they had no objections to deleting their names from the Record of Rights and transferring them to the purchaser, Mahendra Gaunekar.
What is even more shocking and disturbing is that in the Deed of Transfer, dated 11th February 2006 is that the purchaser of the land, Mahendra Gaunekar could enter into agreements of any nature with third parties concerned without the consent or participation of the Archdiocese of Goa for completely freeing the land from all encumbrances.
On acquiring the property, Gaunekar entered into a joint development agreement with Ozone Leisure Resorts Pvt Ltd and Tuscan Consultants and Developers Pvt. Ltd on 11th August, 2009.
In the Joint Development Agreement dated 11th August, 2009 it is stated that Tuscan Consultants - an associate concern of Ozone Leisure Resorts Pvt Ltd - had advanced Rs 18 crore to Mahendra Gaunekar as part of a Rs 20 crore security deposit, for assigning its rights under the joint development agreement dated 15th July, 2005.
Besides purchasing the property of 1, 85,125 sqmts of land directly from the Archdiocese of Goa, Mahendra Gaunekar also registered sale deeds relating to purchase of tenanted property from various other private parties. Under the joint development agreement dated 15th July, 2005, Mahendra Gaunekar and his partners Ozone and Tuscan Consultants renegotiated the terms and conditions for joint development that were earlier orally agreed upon and agreed to pay Mahendra Gaunekar an additional security deposit of Rs 10 crore in addition to the earlier security deposit of Rs 20 crore. As part of the agreement a further sum of Rs 7 crore was advanced to Mahendra Gaunekar.
Apart from the monetary reimbursements, Mahendra Gaunekar also holds 16.7 per cent stake into the Goa Ozone Island project.
At an expected project valuation of over Rs 500 crores as industry analysts state, Ozone Leisure & Resorts are to build an integrated resort project comprising of villas, a deluxe five-star hotel, a golf course, a spa and other mixed-used development based projects to enhance the visitors experience to this commercial cum residential project titled Goa Ozone Island.
In this entire episode of the Church selling land to Mahendra Gaunekar, what is interesting to note is that 70 per cent of the entire land is tenanted agricultural land which was according to the Regional Plan 2021 is to be converted into a settlement zone; at least that is what Gaunekar had committed to the Ozone developers.
The point is that besides the obvious hand of the Church selling the property for a documented amount of peanuts, it will not be surprising that there would have to be more black money transaction in this deal, which the Church or certain members of the Church would have certainly received.
And this when the Archbishop of Goa Filipe Neri Ferrao in his pastoral letter to the faithful exhorted them not to sell their lands in order to protect the identity of the State and its people. However, it appears that the Church does not believe in practicing what it preaches or as they say in Konkani, "Padricho sermanv uniek nhoi".