Pastor dupes 700 people of one parish
After 31 years of waiting for their homes, seven of the parishioners go to cops against Mulund pastor
Hundreds of people died waiting for homes promised to them by a pastor almost 31 years ago. The buyers who are still alive have no hope of getting the ones they booked. Realising that the money they invested in a housing project in 1989 that was a fraud, seven of the flat buyers, most of whom are senior citizens today, submitted a written complaint to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) on Friday accusing pastor D S Walters and two others of breaching their trust and duping them of crores of rupees.
One of the complainants, 64-year-old Valerian Pinto, who stays in Mira Road, said, "I trusted the pastor and invested money in the housing project in 1989. But even after 31 years neither has he given me my home nor refunded the money. He duped hundreds of us, some died waiting." "The first phase of the project was supposed to come up on a 17-acre plot behind Veena Nagar in Mulund West. It would have housed 350 1bhk and 2bhk flats of carpet area 350-750 square feet. Though we were given receipts against all the payments made, everything was a lie. No such project was to come up," added Pinto.
A rough design of the proposed project site
In their complaint to EOW, the buyers have accused Walters, who is also the president of M/s Trinity Welfare Association, secretary Abel Repalle, and treasurer K Krupadanam of the crime. They have alleged that the trio floated a scheme in July 1989 to provide housing units to those who wanted to buy them at concessional rates in Mulund West. The said project was to be developed under the title 'Trinity Cooperative Housing Society'.
The complaint, which was prepared by their lawyer Godfrey Pimenta, further states, "My clients, who are members of the Christian community never thought that a scheme floated by a pastor would get embroiled in issues." Pimenta further alleged, "The pastor used his dominant position to lure the unsuspecting members, who had reposed their faith in him."
The complaint further says that the accused would collect money from the buyers in installments and issue receipts to them. Several meetings were also held where members were intimated about the status of the project and were also made to sign agreements. Walters had even projected himself as the chief promoter of the project. Pinto said, "No plot was ever available for the project. Everything was informed to us verbally and there was no progress in the project."
Twist in tale
According to Pinto, when they started following up the case, Walters came out with a circular on August 22, 2015 saying that he had abandoned the Mulund West project and was coming up with a new one at Kanjurmarg East where the project would be developed on a 25-acre plot.
Speaking about the rates at which the houses were promised, Pimenta said the 25-acre plot was just a mirage. As per the ready reckoner rate of 2015, the Kanjurmarg plot would have cost '5,000 per square feet but they had promised the flats at '2,500 per square feet.
Violation of MOFA
The lawyer further said the pastor and others hatched a criminal conspiracy to cheat and defraud the unsuspecting flat purchasers. They did not even have the basic plot in hand to put up the proposed project but went on collecting huge sums of money from the members.
He further said, "By accepting advance money towards the sale of residential units from my clients and others, who similarly invested their savings in the proposed project, the said persons have committed an offence under Sections 4 and 5 of Maharashtra Ownership of Flat Act (MOFA). Even if we assume that they collected the said amounts towards the sale of residential premises, the same was required to be deposited in the designated bank account for the purpose of construction of the housing units. Also, if they received 20 per cent of the sale consideration of the value of the flats from my clients, they were under statutory obligation to enter into a written agreement for sale as provided under Section 4 of MOFA."
A senior police officer at EOW said, "We will go through the complaint. The EOW probes cases involving an amount of more than '6 crore while those less than that are investigated at the police station level and EOW provides the required assistance."
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Mumbai building collapse claims 5 lives