The Forest Department has asked the Police to initiate criminal action against five estate holders in Nelliampathy who had allegedly “forged documents to occupy large tracts of forest land and pledged them in banks to availed themselves of huge loans.”

Chief Conservator of Forest and Custodian of Vested Forests, Eastern Circle, N.K. Sasidharan, in a letter to District Superintendent of Police M.P. Dinesh here on Wednesday, said “five estate holders in the Nelliampathy Hills should be proceeded against for their alleged illegal activities of fraud, breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, etc., under Sections 447, 465, 468, 471, 420, 120 (b), 421 and 167 of the IPC.” He said “11 persons who were the present holders of the Shernelly Estate are fabricated and unknown.” They acquired false documents from the Sub-Registrar Office, Nemmara, in 1978. Hence “it is clear that there is a criminal conspiracy between the Registration and Revenue Department officials to create false documents to grab the vested forest areas into illegal possession. Besides, they have taken loans from the State Bank of India, Palakkad branch, by pledging false documents.”

Those who have been accused of making forged documents and taking bank loans are Abraham Kuruvila (Document No.640); Mathai Jacob (644); Sheela Mathai (645); Sisili Sebastin (654); Mariamma Joseph (646); Mariyakutty Kuruvila (655); Mariamma Abraham (643); Jose George (647); and Thomas George (642). The CCF said the above facts “reveal criminal activities among some land grabbers in creating false documents, forgery, criminal and other serious illegal activities to get undue benefits at the cost of valuable government land.”

The CCF's letter to the SP also said the holders of Miraflores Estate, Sebastian Chokkad and Philomina Chokkad, and M\s New World Investment Pvt. Ltd, took a loan from the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) for an amount of Rs.9.98 crore giving collateral security of Meeraflore Estate as guarantors of M\s Trend Group Companies. “The huge amount was taken as loan by mortgaging government land. Due to non-payment of loan, the Revenue Department initiated revenue recovery proceedings against the estate authorities by attaching movable and immovable properties of the estate,” the letter said. But the land was leased out for raising cash crops such as coffee, pepper, etc.

In another case, Smitha Mount Estate has pledged an extent of 62.78 acres of forest land and taken a loan from South Indian Bank Ltd, Nemmara Branch. “For default of payment, the bank attached the property against Jacob Sebastian. It conducted auction sale of forest land in 2005 without the knowledge of the Forest Department though it is government property,” the CCF said.

He said another Estate – Alexandira – holder, Babu Abraham, had availed himself of Rs.47.66 lakh from Catholic Syrian Bank, Thrissur, on the strength of securities pledged on 149.08 acres of forest land. Now the Bank authorities have approached the debt recovery tribunal for recovery proceedings as the firm has defaulted on the repayment of loan.

In yet another case, Shamla Majeed, wife of P.V. Majeed, and others holding the Karappara Estate (A and B) availed themselves of loan of Rs.3.34 crore from State Bank of India, Palakkad, on the strength of securities pledged on forest land..