A manager of a private bank recently purchased an 11-perch block of land near the Diyawanna Oya in Kotte, close to the Parliament complex. He was happy about the deal as he had paid only Rs 6 million, a comparatively low price.
The transaction had been effected through a broker, as the manager was busy, and he had visited the land only on a few occasions, prior to the sale.
On completion of the transaction, the buyer, along with some labourers, went to the plot to fence it, but he was resisted by some of the villagers. A while later, a person claiming to be the owner of the land, turned up. The bank manager soon realised he had been duped.
The bank manager lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
CID inquiries revealed that the bogus owner who sold the land had first rented out a house adjoining the land to be sold. Thereafter, he told prospective buyers that he was hurriedly selling the land close to his house, as his family was migrating.
Investigations further revealed that the man responsible for the fraudulent sale had first prepared a forged identity card with the details of the actual owner, and thereafter, obtained the related documents from the relevant State institutions to produce a bogus deed for the transaction.
Four persons involved in the fraudulent sale are presently in custody.
This is among some 400 complaints of illegal land deals and land grabbing received by the CID, after Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa directed to probe such cases.
Some 40 persons have been arrested to date in connection with illegal land deals and transactions.
Among the complainants have been those who have migrated, giving responsibility of the land to a caretaker.
The CID has set up a special unit to probe into complaints on unlawful or criminal misappropriation of property by impersonators or by thugs.
In Angoda, a 30-acre coconut land was on offer for sale for Rs. 7 million. This was after the caretaker of the land had been threatened and chased away.
The buyer paid Rs. 4 million and when he tracked down the address of the owner of the land, he found that it was the address of a natami (porter) in Colombo. The real owner returned from overseas and complained to the CID.
In another similar case, a land was on auction in Kandana, and the would-be buyer paid Rs. 500,000 as an advance, but when he visited the land, he found that there was another owner for the land.
The auctioneer had produced forged deeds and the transaction conducted via mobile phone.
Instances of land frauds have been on the increase in the recent past, prompting the police to warn the public to be careful when buying land.
A senior Police officer said that those purchasing land should always check the identity of the owner through the Grama Niladhari and from residents adjoining the land, as forged identity cards are used in land transactions. In the absence of the real owner, prospective buyers should also check if the land is being transacted by a bona fide power-of-attorney holder.
Refrain from signing blank sheets of paper or incomplete documents.
People should be careful if the land is being sold below market value.
Using the service of an Attorney-at-Law/Notary Public for land transactions, transacting through a bank draft instead of cash, photographing the transaction so that the owner’s picture is available to identify the owner, along with land phone contact numbers, are some of the precautionary measures a prospective buyer should resort to when intending to purchase land.