The law finally catches up with a smooth operator in real estate and informal money-lending
: His ability to add unauthorised extra floors to under-construction buildings and having them legalised by using his connections with the civic authorities and police earned Paras Mal Lodha the nickname of ‘Extra Floor Lodha’. Mr. Lodha, who had business interests in both real estate and informal money-lending, has his roots in Rajasthan’s Churu district. He came to Kolkata with one of his distant relatives in 1977, the year in which the Left came to power in West Bengal.
Mr. Lodha was arrested on Thursday from the Mumbai Airport while trying to flee to Malaysia, allegedly for illegally converting demonetised notes worth Rs. 25 crore into new currency, in collusion with international hawala operators.
“He got very close to Chennai-based sand mining tycoon J. Sekhar Reddy, who was arrested by the CBI, and I think Reddy divulged his links with hawalaoperators who convert black assets,” said a city-based police officer.
According to those close to him, Mr. Lodha’s acumen in business became apparent from his college days. A commerce graduate from a renowned college in Kolkata, Mr. Lodha used to sell foreign magazines to his classmates at high prices. Before moving into real estate and money-lending, he also sold foreign goods, including perfumes and watches. “He was well-connected to several senior officials of the Kolkata Police and had strong connections in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, which he used for legalising unauthorised floors in buildings,” said one of his acquaintances.
First brush with law
Mr. Lodha’s rise in the city’s real estate business in the 1980s came as a result of his close proximity with the then Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front government. His first encounter with the law took place in the 1990s, when he allegedly tried to use gangsters to intimidate P.C. Sen, then managing director of the Peerless General Finance and Investment Co. Ltd., in a bid to take over the company. At that time, the company was one of the largest non-banking financial institutions. His efforts ultimately proved to be futile. In later years, he moved to ‘settle’ the black assets of industrialists across the country.
Mr. Lodha was again embroiled in controversy when his name cropped-up in the Stephen Court fire incident in Park Street in 2010, in which 43 people died. He allegedly constructed two extra floors in the landmark building. However, he was able to distance himself from the incident.