Bhujbals stayed in swanky home, real owners locked out | india | Hindustan Times
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Bhujbals stayed in swanky home, real owners locked out

Amid allegations of amassing a multi-crore empire spanning mines in Indonesia, sugar mills in Nasik and several real estate companies, now former public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his family face accusations in a land grab case that left the real owners, a Catholic family from Santacruz, locked out of their family home and denied of its ownership for more than a decade

india Updated: Apr 17, 2016 01:09 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
A file photo of Chhagan Bhujbal.
A file photo of Chhagan Bhujbal.(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)

Amid allegations of amassing a multi-crore empire spanning mines in Indonesia, sugar mills in Nasik and several real estate companies, now former public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his family face accusations in a land grab case that left the real owners, a Catholic family from Santacruz, locked out of their family home and denied of its ownership for more than a decade.

For the past three years, Bhujbal’s family, including his nephew Sameer, were staying in the nine-storey Solitaire building in Santacruz (West) built on a plot that did not belong to them.

The building was constructed after the demolition a bungalow, La Petite Fleur or The Little Flower, belonging to Francis Fernándes and his heirs.

The property card of this plot, however, continues to be in the name of the late Fernandes’ and his eldest daughter. In exchange for the plat, all the family has got so far was a cheque of Rs 1 lakh that they claim has not been cashed yet.

How did Parvesh Constructions - both Sameer and Pankaj (Bhujbal’s son) were directors of the firm - get this prime real estate plot in Santacruz? The answer is a classic story of land sharks, middlemen and those in power bending rules to grab realty in Mumbai.

The story began unravelling only when both Sameer and Chhagan Bhujbal were arrested, after Claude Fernandes - Francis’s son - deposed before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the anti corruption bureau (ACB) against Parvesh Constructions over February and March.

“When our bungalow was demolished in 2005, we were not even informed. We were kept in the dark when the rights of redevelopment were passed over to Parvesh Constructions, via a middle man, from the original developer we had signed up with. They registered a supplemental agreement that does not bear our signatures. Over the past 10 years, a nine-storey swanky building was constructed where our bungalow stood. The Bhujbals lived in the top six floors, even as we, the rightful owners, ran from pillar to post to get some share of our home,’’ said Doreen Claude’s wife.

Claude and Doreen, both senior citizens, are the only surviving members of the family in Mumbai. Claude, a consulting engineer, was born and brought up in this family home and was to promised a 958 sq ft independent flat after the redevelopment.

He has been waiting for this flat for the past two decades.

“We met Sameer Bhujbal three or four times, through one of his cronies, but got nothing but empty promises in the last ten years,” the couple said.

The redevelopment issue is just skims the surface of the problems the family has faced.

It was in 1994 that the family, represented by its eldest daughter Sheila Athayde - in whose name the property rights were - signed an agreement with M/s Palm Shelter Estate Development Pvt Ltd (part of the K Raheja Corp), transferring to them the power of attorney to redevelop the property.

In total, the family was promised 3,600 sq ft of built-up space, Rs 30 lakh in cash and two flats on of 850 sq ft on tenancy basis in this agreement.

This redevelopment, however, did not take place for ten years and the developer allegedly claimed the size of the plot was smaller. The family had got one cheque of Rs 1 lakh from Palm Shelter.

Fed up with their plot not being developed, Claudemet and placed trust in a former neighbour and secretary of the Bombay Catholic Cooperative Housing Society, Frederick Noronha of M/s Frest Investment and Leasing Co. Pvt Limited, who promised to assist them in the redevelopment.

In his written complaint to the ACB in the current probe, Claude pointed out Noronha took their signatures on several documents but cheated them, got Parvesh Constructions into the picture and made a supplemental agreement between Palm Estate and Parvesh Constructions in 2003.

The couple first filed a complaint with the Santacruz police station in 2005, on realising this supplemental agreement did not have their signatures and had been registered without their knowledge. They also sent a complaint to the sub-registrar’s office and later to the Mumbai crime branch, with copies of the letter to everyone, including the then chief minister.

The complaint fell on deaf ears. They have now been instructed by investigating officials to lodge a criminal complaint with the ACB. The ED has already noted preliminary investigations show Bhujbals were living in the building illegally.

When HT contacted Pankaj Bhujbal, he said, “I don’t want to go into details of this, as the matter is in court. But with regards to this property, certain legal processes and permissions were pending so it took time. We had every intention to give the owners their due.’’ Pankaj admitted the family was living in the Solitaire building for some time.

The middleman, Fredrick Noronha claimed, “They [the Fernandes family] have been making allegations and sending complaint letters, instead they should have just moved court. The agreement they have with Parvesh is legal and binding and the firm has to give them the promised flats.”

A spokesperson for Palm Shelter Estate Development Pvt Limited, in an email response to a questionnaire sent by Hindustan Times, said: “The allegations made against us are mischievous and denied. There were other considerations payable and costs incurred in addition to Rs 1 lakh. Additionally, transfer of development rights to Parvesh Constructions was done at the instance of the owners and their representatives, and documents were executed by owners in favour of Parvesh Constructions.’’

The owners had made the original agreement with this firm for the redevelopment.

Amid allegations of amassing a multi-crore empire spanning mines in Indonesia, sugar mills in Nasik and several real estate companies, now former public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his family face accusations in a land grab case, which left the real owners, a Catholic family from Santacruz, locked out of their family home and denied of its ownership for more than a decade.

For the past three years, Bhujbal’s family, including his nephew Sameer, was staying in the nine-storey Solitaire building in Santacruz (West), built on a plot that did not belong to them. The building was constructed after the demolition the bungalow La Petite Fleur or The Little Flower, belonging to Francis Fernándes and his heirs. The property card of this plot continues to be in the name of the late Fernandes’ and his eldest daughter. For the plot, all the family has got so far is a cheque for Rs 1 lakh that they claim has not been cashed yet.

How did Parvesh Constructions — both Sameer and Pankaj (Bhujbal’s son) were directors of the firm — get this prime real estate plot in Santacruz?

The answer is a classic story of land sharks, middlemen and those in power bending rules to grab realty in Mumbai.

The story began unravelling only when both Sameer and Chhagan Bhujbal were arrested, after Claude Fernandes — Francis’ son — deposed before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the anti corruption bureau (ACB) against Parvesh Constructions over February and March.

“When our bungalow was demolished in 2005, we were not even informed. We were kept in the dark when the rights of redevelopment were passed over to Parvesh Constructions, via a middleman, from the original developer we had signed up with. They registered a supplemental agreement that does not bear our signatures. Over the past 10 years, a nine-storey swanky building was constructed where our bungalow stood. The Bhujbals lived in the top six floors, even as we, the rightful owners, ran from pillar to post to get some share of our home,’’ said Doreen, Claude’s wife.

Claude and Doreen, both senior citizens, are the only surviving members of the family in Mumbai. Claude, a consulting engineer, was born and brought up in this family home and was promised a 958 sq ft independent flat after the redevelopment.

He has been waiting for this flat for the past two decades.

“We met Sameer Bhujbal three or four times, through one of his cronies, but got nothing but empty promises in the last 10 years,” the couple said.

The redevelopment issue just skims the surface of the problems the family has faced.

It was in 1994 that the family, represented by its eldest daughter Sheila Athayde — in whose name the property rights were — signed an agreement with M/s Palm Shelter Estate Development Pvt Ltd (part of the K Raheja Corp), transferring to them the power of attorney to redevelop the property.

In total, the family was promised 3,600 sq ft of built-up space, Rs 30 lakh in cash and two flats on of 850 sq ft on tenancy basis in this agreement.

This redevelopment, however, did not take place for 10 years and the developer allegedly claimed the size of the plot was smaller. The family had got one cheque of Rs 1 lakh from Palm Shelter.

Fed up with their plot not being developed, Claude met and placed trust in a former neighbour and secretary of the Bombay Catholic Cooperative Housing Society, Frederick Noronha of M/s Frest Investment and Leasing Co. Pvt Limited, who promised to assist them in the redevelopment.

In his written complaint to the ACB in the current probe, Claude pointed out Noronha took their signatures on several documents but cheated them, got Parvesh Constructions into the picture and made a supplemental agreement between Palm Estate and Parvesh Constructions in 2003.

The couple first filed a complaint with the Santacruz police station in 2005, on realising this supplemental agreement did not have their signatures and had been registered without their knowledge. They also sent a complaint to the sub-registrar’s office and later to the Mumbai crime branch, with copies of the letter to everyone, including the then chief minister.

The complaint fell on deaf ears.

They have now been instructed by investigating officials to lodge a criminal complaint with the ACB. The ED has already noted preliminary investigations show the Bhujbals were living in the building illegally.

When Hindustan Times contacted Pankaj Bhujbal, he said, “I don’t want to go into details of this, as the matter is in court. But with regards to this property, certain legal processes and permissions were pending so it took time. We had every intention to give the owners their due.’’ Pankaj admitted the family was living in the Solitaire building for some time.

The middleman, Fredrick Noronha claimed, “They [the Fernandes family] have been making allegations and sending complaint letters, instead they should have just moved court. The agreement they have with Parvesh is legal and binding and the firm has to give them the promised flats.”

A spokesperson for Palm Shelter Estate Development Pvt Limited, in an email response to a questionnaire sent by Hindustan Times, said: “The allegations made against us are mischievous and denied. There were other considerations payable and costs incurred in addition to Rs 1 lakh. Additionally, transfer of development rights to Parvesh Constructions was done at the instance of the owners and their representatives, and documents were executed by owners in favour of Parvesh Constructions.’’

The owners had made the original agreement with this firm for the redevelopment.