Cochin port denies wrongdoing in land lease deal

Kochi, May 28 (IANS) There is no wrongdoing in the leasing out of Cochin Port Trust (CPT) land to UAE businessman M.A. Yusuf Ali to build a convention centre, a trust official said here Tuesday.

Trust chairman Paul Antony told reporters the deal followed the shipping ministry's approval for commercial use of its properties which could not be used for shipping.

"Only one tender was received, which was from Ali. He offered Rs.6.74 crore per hectare which was higher than the upset value (Rs.5.48 crore) fixed for the plot," Antony said.

"The board of trustees, including the labour trustees, approved the proposal unanimously at a meeting held Sep 6, 2010 and 10.59 hectare of land was leased out accordingly in 2010," said Antony.

In the past few days, the Ernakulam district unit of the Communist Party of India-Marxist has been alleging irregularities in the land lease deal.

Antony dismissed the allegations and said the central ministry permitted the leasing out of port lands for 30 years with an option of renewal after 30 years at the then prevailing rates.

After a controversy broke out over the deal, a pained Ali expressed a desire to withdraw from the project but Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he would not allow Ali to do so as the proposed convention centre may generate 4,000 direct jobs and 12,000 indirect jobs.

Ali has also written to the trust that he wished to withdraw from the project and his money should be refunded.

"The board will meet soon to discuss his letter," added Antony.