Published: August 10, 2013 03:27 IST | Updated: August 10, 2013 03:27 IST
Ousted after probing Vadra land deal, Khemka digs deeper
- Chander Suta Dogra
- Shalini Singh
Working largely on his own in order to rebut the Haryana government’s charge of having acted improperly in ordering the cancellation of the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal, senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka has sought to reconstruct the precise manner in which the controversial property transaction was put together.
Mr. Khemka was Director General, Land Holdings and Land Records and Inspector General of Registration, Haryana, in October 2012 when he decided to set aside the mutation of Mr. Vadra’s property giving effect to the sale deed in favour of DLF. Mr. Khemka’s decision came in the wake of an inquiry he conducted following the publication of a story, ‘Behind Robert Vadra’s fortunes, a maze of questions,’ in The Hindu on October 8, 2012,
Even as he was completing his probe, he was summarily transferred out of the crucial post. A Haryana government committee subsequently indicted him for acting wrongly in the Vadra case. In a tough and detailed counter, Mr. Khemka has listed out a number of irregularities and illegalities involving the Vadra-DLF deal.
The Corporation Bank cheque bearing number 607251 for Rs 7.5 crores, mentioned in sale deed no. 4928 of 12 February 2008, did not belong to Robert Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality. It is “likely that a fictitious cheque number was shown by the company with the full consent and knowledge of DLF to enable it to get legal title of land,” Mr. Khemka states in his submission to the Haryana government. This, because at the time of registering the sale deed, Skylight Hospitality did not have the money in its accounts to pay the Rs. 7.95 crores needed for land cost and stamp duty on the deed. Because no money changed hands as stated in the registered sale deed, and the stamp duty of Rs. 45 lakhs was also paid by Onkareshwar Properties and not Mr. Vadra’s company as stated in the deed, this amounts to making false statements punishable under Section 82 of the Registration Act, he states.
Consequently, in the balance sheets filed by the company as on March 31 2008, the bank balance is wrongly shown as a book overdraft of Rs. 7,94,00,000, because the cheque for Rs. 7.5 crores was never presented, says he.
Within two months of this, Mr. Vadra had entered into an agreement to sell the land to DLF for Rs. 58 crores and began receiving the money in instalments, as advance. The first of these instalments came in June 2008 and Mr. Khemka states that “The payment to Onkareshwar Properties was made from the advance money that was received from DLF Universal.” In other words, Mr. Vadra’s company began receiving money into its accounts without investing any of its own funds to buy the land.
Mr. Khemka goes on to say that the DTCP issued the company an LoI for a colony licence, without verifying the genuineness of the sale transactions or the capacity of Skylight Hospitality to develop a commercial colony in the first place.
At that time the company had zero income with a paid up capital of Rs. one lakh and the expenditure of Rs. 43,000 that it had incurred was met using borrowed money. But, “the capacity of the applicant company was nothing else other than Mr. Robert Vadra. The man became a measure of everything and the entire statutory apparatus a castle of sand,” says Mr. Khemka’s reply. Both the land title and LoI were necessary conditions to enable Mr. Vadra’s company to receive advances and execute a collaboration agreement with DLF Ltd for development of the land. The DTCP helped in other ways too.
DLF applied twice in August and in September 2008 for a commercial licence for this land, which it did not get. Then, on 18 November 2008 (the reasons are not clear, Mr. Khemka writes, because the department did not provide him the documents), Skylight makes a fresh application to the DTCP, and the collaboration agreement is indicated in the application to justify the ‘capacity’ of Skylight Hospitality to develop a colony. The agreement records that Skylight had by then transferred possession of the land to DLF.
“The agreement which was not registered was entertained illegally by the DTCP, even though Skylight had transferred possession of the land” by then. “This in itself was sufficient to withdraw the first letter of intent issued in March. Instead, Licence no 203 of 2008 was granted to M/s Skylight Hospitality on 15/12/2008. … This proves that all transactions entered into by M/s Skylight were sham,” says Mr. Khemka.
Mr. Khemka points out that as per the Collaboration Agreement, the Land Owners contribution was the Land Title and a Letter of Intent from the DTCP for grant of commercial colony licence on 2.701 acres; the rest of the responsibility was of the Developer, including obtaining commercial colony licence from DTCP, development of commercial project/buildings with FAR of 175 and maintenance of the assets created. In addition, the gross commercial area developed (which translates to a staggering 2,05,820 sq ft) was to be shared equally between the Land Owner and the Developer. This shows that Skylight Hospitality had no intent to develop the land.
“The Land Title and LoI for grant of commercial colony licence were sham transactions routed through M/s Skylight Hospitality so that part of the unofficial premium on account of commercial colony licence is remitted in white by the Developer, M/s DLF Retail Developers, to M/s Skylight Hospitality acting as a middleman to the deal of obtaining colony licence from the DTCP.”
Mr. Khemka has further discovered that the authorised signatory of M/s DLF Retail Developers Ltd in their applications dated 21.08.2008 and 24.09.2008 to the DTCP for commercial licence for 2.701 acres is Devinder Singh. However, the same person is also the special power of attorney holder of Skylight Hospitality in the same applications. This means that both DLF and Skylight Hospitality are represented by the same person who has been simultaneously signing multiple documents for both parties.
What prompted Onkareshwar Properties, a company that has close connections with top ruling Haryana politicians, to oblige Skylight Hospitality? Mr. Khemka points out that after executing the sale deed in favour of Mr. Vadra’s Skylight without receiving Rs. 7.9 crores as sales consideration, the company was given two group housing licences in village Sihi Sector 82 of Gurgaon for 6.2 acres and 15 acres. It was granted another licence for plotted development for 4.8 acres in Shikohpur, taking its net assets, which stood at Rs 6783 in March 2005, to a bank balance of Rs. 70.84 crores by March 2011 with a paid up share capital of just Rs. 25 lakhs.
‘Vadra used falsiﬁed documents, sham transactions to collect premium on land deal’
- SHALINI SINGHCHANDER SUTA DOGRA
PTIIAS officer Ashok Khemka has submitted a report on Robert Vadra’s land deals.
IAS officer Ashok Khemka has submitted a report on Robert Vadra’s land deals.
Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka submits 100-page report to government
Ashok Khemka, the Haryana IAS officer who cancelled a land deal mutation between Robert Vadra and real estate giant DLF Universal Ltd last October, has told the Haryana government that Mr. Vadra falsified documents and executed a series of sham transactions for 3.53 acres land in Shikohpur village of Gurgaon, thereby pocketing a hefty premium on a commercial colony licence through money that he could account for.
Mr. Vadra, who is Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, was favoured and aided in making these ‘sham transactions’ by Haryana’s Department of Town and Country Planning (DTCP), alleges Mr. Khemka, accusing the department of ignoring rules and regulations “to allow crony capitalists operating as middlemen to flourish and appropriate [the] market premium of a licence.”
He has made these assertions in a 100-page reply to a report of a three-member enquiry committee set up by the Haryana government last October to look into the Vadra-DLF deal. The committee had indicted Mr. Khemka for cancelling the deal. Mr. Khemka’s reply, submitted on May 21 and accessed by The Hindu, has been put together with the help of publicly available documents and his own findings, after the government stonewalled his efforts to get the official documents concerning the sale, issue and transfer of the license to DLF.
Though nearly three months have elapsed since his reply was submitted, Haryana Chief Secretary P.K. Chaudhary told The Hindu that Mr. Khemka’s “voluminous reply is being examined and the points raised by him are being looked into.”
Mr. Khemka states that both the sale deed of February 12, 2008 — through which Mr. Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, bought the land from Onkareshwar Properties — and the letter of intent for granting a commercial licence to his company issued by the DTCP in March 2008 are sham transactions, executed only to enable Mr. Vadra to collect market premium accruing to him due to state largesse.
“If there was no payment as alleged in the registered deed, can it be said that the registered deed conferred ownership title over the said land upon Skylight Hospitality by virtue of the sham sale?” he asks.
The law defines “sale” as a transfer of ownership in exchange for a price paid or promised or part-paid and part promised. Mr. Khemka notes that “there was no promise to pay in the future in the registered deed. No price was paid as claimed in the registered deed … The “sale” registered in the said deed cannot, therefore, be called a “sale” in the true sense of the term, legal or moral, and it cannot be said that Skylight Hospitality became owner of the land in question by virtue of the “sale” registered in [the] deed.”
According to Section 82 of the Registration Act, 1908, the penalty for making false statements, delivering false copies or translations, false personation, and abetment is punishable with imprisonment up to 7 years, he notes.
Earlier this year, the Haryana government’s committee had concluded that the orders passed by Mr. Khemka initiating an enquiry into Mr. Vadra’s land deals were “without jurisdiction, inappropriate and not covered under any provisions of any statute or rules.” Also, that his order cancelling the land mutation was administratively improper. Mr. Khemka was not permitted to present his stand before this committee.
In his reply to the committee’s indictment, Mr. Khemka states that not just the sale deed through which Mr. Vadra became the owner of the land, but the balance sheets filed by Skylight Hospitality as on 31 March 2008 are also false. These, he says are offences under Sections 417, 468 and 471 of the IPC and the Companies Act 1956. Further, on 5 August 2008, Skylight Hospitality entered into an unregistered collaboration agreement with DLF Universal for 2.7 acres of this land, that Mr. Khemka terms as “an illegality that led to [the] loss of crores of revenue to the State exchequer” because a collaboration agreement of this kind has to be registered.
“It was known all along to the DTCP that the actual developer of the colony would be DLF and the routing of the transaction through Skylight was a subterfuge to remit part premium into the accounts of Skylight Hospitality Private Ltd,” he says.
The DTCP permitted Skylight to transfer the licence to DLF in April 2012, and the licensed land was finally sold to DLF on 18th September 2012. Mr. Khemka goes on to say, “By allowing the transfer of licence issued in the name of Skylight to DLF, the DTCP created a black market for trading in licences where cronies are issued licences which are later sold or transferred with ‘permission’ of the authority for a fat consideration, to the real developers.” He has demanded a white paper on the transfer of all such licences permitted in the past to “expose the diabolical game of looting public wealth.”
According to Mr. Khemka’s note, the DTCP issued various types of colony licences for a total of 21,366 acres in the last 8 years of Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s tenure from 2005 to 2012. He points out that if the market premium for a colony licence is assumed to be as low as Rs. 1 crore/acre, the land-licensing scam in the past eight years is worth roughly Rs. 20,000 crore. At the premium of Rs. 15.78 crore/acre that Mr. Vadra earned, this figure would jump to a staggering Rs. 3.5 lakh crore.