Vigilance probe into Kochi Cyber City land deal

Thrissur, Feb 18 (IANS) The controversial land deal for the $1 billion Cyber City project in Kerala has now come under scrutiny for possible evasion of land registration fee to the government.

The state’s Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) will probe whether the 70-acre plot for the project at Kochi was sold by the public sector Hindustan Machine Tools at substantially less than the market price, causing losses to the government in registration fee.

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The probe was ordered Monday by the vigilance court on a petition claiming that the government lost Rs.490 million in registration fee as the land was sold at lower than the market price.

The Cyber City project is promoted by the Mumbai-based Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL), which says it purchased the land from HMT through public auction.

However, the petitioner, Sreekumar Mulleppali, a member of the Kaduvallur gram panchayat (village council) in Thrissur district, alleged that the “land was sold at Rs.130,000 a cent (One cent is 435.6 sq ft) while the market price is Rs.700,000 a cent”.

“The government would have got Rs.490 million if the land was sold at the actual price. HMT and government officials colluded with the real estate mafia to sell the land at a low price,” the petition contended.

Meanwhile, S. Sarma, who holds the registration portfolio in the V.S. Achuthanandan ministry, told reporters in Kochi that the government will take stringent action against officials if it was found they had caused revenue loss to the government.