ED Suspects Russian Land Mafia Behind FEMA Violation In Goa

The Enforcement Directorate(ED), the agency responsible for investigating economic crime in India, has sought information from the Goa government on all companies that bought properties in the state between 2000 and 2007, as it investigates the role of a suspected Russian land mafia.
The agency suspects that some Indian companies that bought large plots in the state could have acted as fronts for Russian owners acquiring land in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, or Fema, said a top enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The directorate, which has been probing suspicious land transactions, has had little success in tracking such deals.
“Most of these cases are unreported due to the reluctance of state authorities to cooperate with our investigations,” the same official said. “We have asked the Goa government to find out the names of big companies that have bought land for promotion of tourism in Goa.”
Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat declined to comment on the issue in a telephone conversation. He also said a comment through email or fax would take time, citing the state assembly session that’s under way.
Goa, famous for its beaches, tropical biodiversity and a strong Portuguese influence on its culture and architecture, attracts a large number of foreign tourists every year who find it easier to blend in with the diverse local population than in any other Indian state. But parts of Goa have also acquired a reputation as a haven for drug dealers and land mafia.
Last year, CNN-IBN television news channel reported that the Russian land mafia had been throwing out small landholders and farmers, and grabbing prime land in fraudulent deals. Following reports of foreigners buying land in Goa in violation of Fema, the state government handed over details on 21 companies owned by Russian and the Reserve Bank of India, or RBI.
nationals to the directorate
According to Ashutosh Limaye, associate director at the property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, increased vigilance over land deals by the police, forest laws and rules relating to coastal regulation zones have stalled land transactions in Goa now.
“The deal makers want to play it safe and are waiting for resolution of the ongoing issues,” he said.”The number of land transactions in Goa has definitely come down as a fallout of the land scam. Many deals, that were at the negotiation stage, have been stalled.”
Still, the “significant decline” in the number of land deals hasn’t led to a sharp fall in prices, which have remained stable, he said.
In May, the directorate issued notices under Fema to the promoters and directors of two companies—True Axis Resorts Pvt. Ltd and Artlibori Resorts Pvt. Ltd, owned by Russian citizens Leonid Beyzer and Valiulin Rashida, respectively, asking them why they should not be penalized. The other directors in True Axis are Pramod B. Walke and Fransico D’Souza, both from Goa.
Beyzer, who still lives in Goa had, in 2005, bought 25,000 sq. m of land, including 19,906 sq. m of prime agricultural land in Morjim, North Goa, for constructing a resort. He was in India on a tourist visa, according to the directorate.
Mint was unable to contact True Axis and Artlibori Resorts because their addresses weren’t readily available.
The directorate also sent notices to directors of another resort firm, Oriental Ambers Pvt. Ltd, only to find later that there was no office at the registered address. It has not been able to trace the local owners of Oriental Ambers either.

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