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21 May 2024

Buried in bureaucracy: NRIs fear losing investments worth millions

By Joseph George

It is yet another case of expat investments in Kerala gone (almost) bust, buried in a legal, bureaucratic black hole.

This time though, it is also getting buried in history, as half-baked bricks and partially complete villas stand abandoned due to objections raised by India's archeology department, which has complained that the project could affect historical sites in the vicinity.

Launched in 2008, the retirement home project at the temple town of Guruvayur by Santhimadom Builders and Developers consisted of about 250 villas with amenities such as health resort, marriage hall, international convention centre and even a helipad.

The group even promised investors a healthy lifestyle with an organic farm where they could grow their own everyday vegetables.

Several prominent Malayalam film stars were roped in to promote the project. This YouTube video is one of the promos that the company had launched to promote the development.

The developers promised to lease out completed properties to ensure that investors earn a monthly rental of Rs25,000.

But the project got stalled after local authorities halted construction work accusing developers of not obtaining relevant permissions. The archeology department then introduced new legal hurdles and further complicated the development.

Investors soon started backing out with several of them cancelling their deals and asking for a refund.

The developers had promised a complete refund to investors in case the project was stalled due to legal hurdles. Some of the villas completed are inhabitable as local authorities have not allowed water and electricity connections to the development. Many other villas are in various stages of completion.

On Friday, several dozen NRI investors, mainly from the UAE, got together and have now decided to take up the matter with the Ministry of External Affairs.

They allege that the owner of Santhimadom Builders and Developers Radhakrishnan has about 80 different cases registered against him in various police stations across Kerala.

Shamsuddin Karunagapally, who is representing NRI investors, told Emirates 24|7 that they would now demand the ministry to get the archeology department to relax its objections.

"Most investors have been issued with ownership documents so the land legally belongs to them. We are even told that someone from the developers complained to the archeology department in an effort to stall the project. We are now trying to get it revived on our own," he says.