Enforcement Directorate Inquires Into Himachal Ski Village Company

Shimla: To verify antecedents of funding the proposed multi-million dollar Himalayan Ski Village (HSV) tourism resort in Manali, the enforcement directorate has launched an inquiry and asked the state government to submit all relevant papers to the investigating agency.

Confirming as much chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal told My Himachal News, “I’m not aware of the full fact but I have heard about the Enforcement Directorate conducting an inquiry into the Himalayan Ski Village Company.”

Top government sources confirmed having received a letter nine weeks ago from the Delhi based office of the enforcement directorate demanding information about the shareholders of the company and sources of funding the project to ascertain whether any FEMA violations have taken place.

The state government has offered to hand over all documents related to the company for investigation purposes, sources said.

John Sims, MD of HSV when contacted said, “a normal query about the premium value of the company’s shares for foreign investors has been sought by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Enforcement Directorate.”

Alfred Brush Ford, a scion of the family that owns the Ford Motor Company, happens to be the chairman of the group of United Kingdom based investors in the project.

“He is not a director on the HSV board but takes part in the company’s proceeding as chairman of the investors group, said Sims. “All foreign investors have RBI clearance,” he claimed.

Former state tourism minister GS Bali when contacted said, “as a concept, a ski village in the Himalayas is a wonderful tourism project.” About the enforcement directorate inquiry he said, “I have nothing to say on it.”

Details of company with the company registration office show that John Sims, a US and Delhi based resident and Ajay Dabra, a Manali resident with an equity of Rs 1 lakh are promoters of the company who hold 8500 and 1500 shares of Rs 10 face value respectively.

Other members on the board with no equity participation are Delhi based Glenn Donald Trotman, Mumbai based Nasseer Munjee, Delhi based BK Goswami, and Gloucestershire UK and Mumbai based Roderick Peter Abell. Ford was a director on the board for a brief period from December 2004 to February 2005.

Nineteen overseas investors including Ford have bought 10,750 shares of Rs 10 face value at a premium in the company that makes up for a Rs 26.17 crore capitalization.

About 9 of the investors are from UK, four including Sims from USA, two from Jersey Channel Islands and one each from Cyprus and Singapore.

The $300 million dollar ski village project was in principal approved by the previous congress government but was resisted by residents of Kullu valley and BJP when in the opposition.

On coming to power at the turn of the year, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal while holding that the project was unacceptable in its present shape had said that international bidding would be invited if such a resort is to be set up in Kullu valley.

At the same time, a committee appointed by the High Court and headed by secretary tourism Manisha Nanda was set up to review the whole project proposal. The committee is still to give its view on the major tourism project in the Himalayas.

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1 Comment

  1. says: john

    Skiing the majestic Himalayas with western-standard convenience and amenities is tantalizing. Western Europe and North America have been profiting from their mountains for decades; why shouldn’t India?

    My primary objection to the Himalayan Ski Village, however, is that from everything I’ve read and heard the project’s sole purpose is to attract wealthy tourists. In order to do this, HSV is proposing a homogenous development that will require a catastrophic amount of natural resources to cater to the whims of but a few tourists. It’s difficult to imagine how HSV will manage the necessary infrastructure upgrades to attract its elite clientele. Will HSV helicopter its wealthy visitors from Delhi? If not, do the promoters really think ultra-rich Europeans and Americans will accept the 2 or 3-day travel time it takes to get to Manali?

    The locals, except for the few that the U.S.-based HSV promoters need in order to navigate the Himachal bureaucracy, will almost certainly not benefit from the ski village. In the American business model, only the rich get richer; there is rarely a trickle down to the “little people.”

    Himachal would benefit from a more egalitarian ski village—like Gulmarg. It’s Gulmarg’s misfortune to be situated in a region famed for violence. If the Himachal government replicated Gulmarg and did away with foreign control of the development, it seems like the project would stand a better chance of actually benefiting Indians of all classes and economic means.

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