A businessman from Nugegoda purchased a prime block of land of 20 perches bordering the High Level Road and put up a three-storied building, opening up a car sales centre too.A few months into the business the upper floors were rented out and business was thriving. Not long after, he received the bad news that [...]


You may have land deeds, but you may not be the only owner

= CID investigates more than 3,500 cases of illegal land transactions
= Warns public to take legal and other precautions to protect property
= Says probes reveal ‘altered’, ‘missing’ and ‘torn’ documents at Land Registry

A businessman from Nugegoda purchased a prime block of land of 20 perches bordering the High Level Road and put up a three-storied building, opening up a car sales centre too.A few months into the business the upper floors were rented out and business was thriving.

Not long after, he received the bad news that there was another owner to the land on which he had built. The owner, living overseas, turned up at his doorstep with the documents to prove he was the owner of the land.

Public be aware:The two circled areas, the cross reference section (on top) and the section where information on new owners should be entered are sometimes torn off or tampered with at the Land Registry

The businessman in turn informed the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) as he believed that he was the rightful owner.
However, the issue ended in courts and since the first purchase had been made by the person who had travelled from overseas, the businessman was deprived of the land and the newly-constructed building.

The CID is now hunting for two brothers who were the original owners and who had sold it to two parties.
It has now been revealed that one party had sold the land to another, who in turn had sold it to the businessman.
This is just one of more than 3,500 complaints of illegal land transactions, forcible occupation of lands and houses and preparation of forged documents for lands and houses, that are being investigated by the CID.

About 220 investigations have been completed. Among the victims are judges, lawyers, government officials, professionals, army personnel and businessmen.

Although a majority of the complaints are from Colombo, several have also been received from outstations too.
In Veyangoda the owner of two-acres of coconut land had contacted a broker as he was interested in selling the land.
However, after a few months of various negotiations the owner did not succeed in selling the land.

But the broker who was in possession of a photocopy of the land deed had approached a state bank to obtain a Rs. 10 million loan. He had even prepared a forged identity card with details of the original owner of the land. The loan was approved and the money was released to the man who posed off as the owner.

It was only a few months later when the loan instalments were not being paid that bank officials realised that the transaction was fraudulent. The actual owner of the land was unaware of the transaction until he was alerted by the bank.
Following a complaint the CID has arrested at least five people involved in the fraud.

In Kottawa, a Major attached to the Sri Lanka Army had purchased 20 perches of land valued at Rs. 3.2 million through a broker. Within a year she had completed the ground floor of her house and the first floor was under construction.
However, she was in for a rude shock when a few months later a person claiming to be the owner of the land turned up at her doorstep and requested the Major and her family to vacate the land .

An investigation carried out by the CID revealed that the broker who was involved in the sale of the land had no permanent address or land telephone but operated only on mobile phones. Three persons involved in the operation including a lawyer have been arrested.

The Major however lost everything.The three suspects had even continued with their illegal activities while they were in remand custody. “In fact they gave a call to a woman who had been taken in for questioning by the CID. They were trying to entrust her with making some forged documents for another illegal transaction,” a senior CID official said.
In Colombo, a mother and daughter duo had sold a 14 perch land for Rs. 6 million to eight persons within three weeks and fled the country.

They had sold the land during the period the registration of the land was taking place. The CID official told the Sunday Times that people who own property and do not live in the vicinity should take steps to protect the land by informing a neighbour, visiting the land regularly or displaying the telephone number of the owner.

He said the public should also be wary when buying property at a price that is much lower than the going market value.
He added that property owners should also take legal precautions such as filing a caveat in the Land Registry which pre-empts any untoward transactions.

He also said when buying any property people should carefully examine the documents in the Land Registrar’s Office as sometimes they are altered or parts of it torn out. He said there are instances where acid has been poured to deface documents.
“At times the top section of the land extracts which contains the column for cross reference is torn and the person intending to purchase the land has no clue that there are related documents,” he cautioned.

In some instances the details of the person who made the most recent purchase is not included in the Land Rewith only the name of the original owner remaining.

Meanwhile, an office assistant attached to the Colombo Land Registrar’s Office and who is now in custody has been found to be involved in a series of frauds. He is believed to be involved with one of the six land-fraud gangs in Colombo.
The man has been charged with replacing, disfiguring and preparing bogus documents for lands in Colombo, thus enabling people to sell them.

“The office assistant was rich enough to come to work in a BMW. He used to park the car in a nearby location and turn up for work,” the CID officer said.

The car has been seized by the CID. The CID investigtions into land frauds commenced following an order by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa early this year. A separate division has been set up exclusively for this purpose at the CID.

CID believes Gampaha Land Registrar and a notary public involved  

Pugoda land fraud: 

By Aanya Wipulasena

The CID is still probing a case where a single plot of land in Pugoda area had been sold to at least 47 unsuspecting buyers. Eighty-five-year-old Lokuhapuarachilage Rathmawathi, one of the two owners of the land is being questioned over the issue. Earlier she had been arrested but was released due to poor health.

The plot of land that was sold to about 47 people

As our story last week on this issue stated, the five acre land in question had been sold to at least 47 people since 2007, by a woman in her mid thirties, Madhu Pushpika. The land was owned by her mother Lokuhapuarachilage Lilawathi and aunt Lokuhapuarachilage Rathmawathi. According to Gampaha police the two women signed the deeds while Madhu Pushpika found the buyers. They had earned a total of Rs. 37.5 million from all the transactions.

They were able to carry out this fraudulent act for many years because the entries in the extracts in the Gampaha Land Registry were either not maintained or new transactions were intentionally not recorded, the Sunday Times learns.
Gampaha Chief Inspector (CI) H.L. Wimalasena told the Sunday Times the CID suspected that the Gampaha Land Registrar and a notary public, who tried to get access to the documents after the police started investigations, may be involved in this large scale fraud.

“The Gampaha Land Registrar, H.D.J. Soysa, is suspected to be involved because the extracts were under her care. When the extracts were found to be tampered with it was somebody else who lodged a complaint with the police. But it was Mrs. Soysa’s responsibility to do so,” CI Wimalasena said.

The mother and daughter who are the prime suspects in this case have fled the country. However, the Chief Inspector said the CID believes they will be able to track them down by next week.

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