A joint director of enforcement will head the zonal office

Goa Sub-Zonal Office of the Directorate of Enforcement, which is grappling with a large number of cases of violations of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999, in purchase of immovable properties by foreigners, will soon be upgraded to a zonal office.

Sources told The Hindu here on Tuesday that the process of upgrading by shifting to a spacious premises at Patto on the outskirts of the city was on after the recent visit of some top officials. More staff and other infrastructure would also be put in place soon. At present, only assistant directors were dealing with the cases in Goa office. A joint director of enforcement would head the zonal office.

The sources said that 26 more show-cause notices had been issued to foreign purchasers of immovable properties in the process of adjudication of Goa cases, some by Mumbai office and others by Goa office of the Enforcement asking to reply within 15 days why their properties could not be confiscated. Once replies were received, adjudication process would be started.

The recent order for confiscation of 14 properties owned by foreigners at Morjim in north Goa by the Enforcement Directorate was seen locally as legal action finally catching up with those who had purchased properties in contravention of the provisions of FEMA. Cases pertained to Britons, Russians and other nationals too, the sources said.

Over 450 cases of alleged violations of FEMA by foreigners are being handled by the directorate, of which some have been forwarded by the State government while others by the Reserve Bank of India after establishing prima facie violations.

In 2010, after the issue raised serious outcry across the State, the State government issued an advisory cautioning foreign nationals and locals not to encourage or indulge in any property transactions in contravention of the provisions of FEMA.

An official of the State government told The Hindu on Tuesday that such cases were not taking place as registrars had stopped registering such properties based on the government guidelines issued in the aftermath of the major outcry in and outside the State Legislative Assembly seeking stringent action. What the government was grappling at present is said to be complaints of running of tourism-related business activities, including tourist taxi operations by some Russian and some other nationals on tourist visas in the north coastal belt of Goa, particularly in Morjim and Arambol inviting the ire of locals in tourism.

In the past, following criticism in the State Legislature, the then Congress-led government constituted a committee under the then State Joint Secretary (Debt Management) for examining the cases related to acquisition of immovable property by foreign nationals. The committee took up 480 cases of which after finding prima facie violations, nearly 300 were forwarded to the Directorate of Enforcement for action while some were moved to RBI.