CRIMINAL: Melwyn Fernandes who leased out La Bonita to Mudit Sibal threw him out of the property when it started doing well. A police complaint of assault and attempted murder is pending against him at the Panaji District Court.
By Rajan Narayan
Melwyn Fernandes, allegedly a notorious goonda with several cases against him is converting peaceful Aldona village into a hell. Melwyn makes friends with migrants from outside and offers them land or his hotel to run on contract. When they start doing well he throws them out without any compensation! On the basis of a police complaint filed for assault and attempt to murder Mudit Sibal has filed a criminal case which has reached the charge sheet stage.
ALDONA is one of the largest and oldest villages of Goa with a population of almost 10,000 people. Unlike the other popular villages of Goa which attract outsiders in large number, Aldona is not a seaside village. It is one of the few green villages where paddy and other crops are grown very widely. Aldona has no scarcity of water. One of the main attractions of Aldona is the Aldona-Conjuem bridge built just before the first International Film Festival of India in Goa. It is one of the few cable state suspension bridge built during the tenure of the late Manohar Parrikar and it hosted Manohar Parrikar farewell party.
Aldona has many distinguished citizens. The first Development Commissioner of Goa after Liberation, Alban Couto, hails from Aldona. Alban went on to become Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. I had the privilege of meeting him in London where he stayed in the famous suburb of Hampstead Heath. Which incidentally houses the grave of both the founder of communism Karl Marx and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Alban’s wife Maria Aurora Couto is a famous author of Goa. A lot of distinguished outsiders from Delhi and Mumbai have bought what is being called crumbling old Portuguese villas and restored them. Among the many distinguished bhaile (outsiders) who has bought a vintage home in Aldona is the celebrated Indian homeopath Mukesh Batra, founder-head of one of the world’s largest chain of homeopath clinics. Aldona is also home village of nutritionist Nina Figueiredo and associate professor of preventive medicine Dr Amit Dias.
Aldona is unmatched for its greenery. Unlike in other villages you do not come across ugly concrete monster buildings. The people of Aldona are peace-loving and laid-back. They are mostly professionals and landlords who still value the agricultural way of live. Unfortunately, in recent years the peace of Aldona has been shattered by Melwyn Fernandes. Many strangers come to Aldona in the hope of buying land and setting up a farm. Quite simply many have become victims of this man’s trickery. Melwyn has more than a dozen cases for assault and cheating registered at the Mapusa police station.
Among the cases filed are those of Mudit Sibal, husband of Neela Venkatraman. Who had leased Melwyn’s restaurant and bar called Bonita Café and they were running it very successfully. When Melwyn saw Bonita Café is doing good business he overnight assaulted Mudit and took over the restaurant assaulted him and took over the restaurant. The intension was clearly to attempt to murder and a case was lodged by the complainant at the Mapusa police station; a final hearing on the case is due any time soon at the Panjim High Court. The case has reached the stage where a charge sheet is likely to be filed against Melwyn Fernandes.
MORE recently a young Goan woman returned to Goa, her home state, after working in the UK. The highly qualified MBA from Manchester University was just feeling homesick and lonely in the UK and decided to return with her husband and invest in an animal husbandry business out in the hilly fields of Aldona. She entered into a partnership with Melwyn Fernandes and in exchange for his land she was allowed to raise her large livestock of pigs, goats and poultry. The unwritten agreement was that 50% of her profits from sale of livestock would go to the landlord Melwyn whom she considered her friend.
In her subsequent passion to make the animal husbandry venture a success the young couple invested over Rs 50 lakh of their life’s savings in buying the livestock and feed for them, importing prime stock such as Yorkshire pigs; she also hired four employees to help her run her venture. Bearing all the costs of fencing, sheltering her livestock and paying the staff.
Subsequently after the expenses were met with she ended up getting only 20% of the profits while her partner goon took away 50% without making any investment! Ironically, she got in touch with me after I posted on Facebook that I would like to retire to a rural village to live the rest of my life! She called me back and claimed that she had permission from the local Panchayat to build ten cottages on her leased property. In the meanwhile she offered me an old broken down Portuguese house which she said she would rent out to me for Rs15,000 per month. Only later I realized that the terribly maintained house belonged to her partner Melwyn Fernandes who enjoys a none too good a reputation with his past record of beating up business partners he woos and sets up!
It was a repetition of old history when Judy Gomes called recently to tell me that Melwyn had taken over her animal husbandry venture lock, stock and barrel and given her, her husband and little daughter marching orders. The story doing the rounds is that now her former business partner has sold the land along with all of Judy’s livestock.
Judy tells me that even her 4-wheeler has been seized and sold off. Yet she is too terrified to file a police complaint against this Melwyn Fernandes and on the contrary insists that she will come to an amicable settlement with him soon. Do goons with an alleged history of assault and terror come to settle business deals amicably?
I made some enquiries with my many friends in Aldona including local MLA glen Ticlo to whom I had introduced Judy Gomes. The MLA confirmed that Melwyn Fernandes is a notorious man with a reputation for engaging in dubious business deals with innocent people wanting to settle in Aldona. Allegedly, he has the police outpost of Aldona in his pocket.
Fortunately, the police inspector of Mapusa police station under which the Aldona police station falls has been supportive of the two victims of Melwyn Fernandes. When I called up Melwyn to ask him to return Judy Gomes’ livestock and money he just laughed at me mockingly. Obviously he is used to getting away with his acts of omission and commission and acts of terror tactics to drive away those who have victimised in unfair business deals without any legal tender documentation. He is used to getting away with his acts of crime.
I refused to let the matter go as I have confronted many goons over my 40 years of life and times as the editor of the OHeraldo in Goa. Former SP Umesh Gaokar will confirm that when I editing the OHeraldo, I helped him to break the back of Santa Cruz’ gang of goons led by “Mummy Dearest” Victoria Fernandes’ son Rudolf Fernandes. In the early 90s I had collaborated with the then Goa Home Minister Ravi Naik in getting major crime groups ranging from Rudolf and Victoria to Churchill Alemao booked under the National Security Act. Under the act the police can arrest any criminal and hold him in custody for six months without the benefit of bail.
It is very unfortunate that the good citizens of Aldona are keeping quiet over the acts of vandalism and crime happening in their village. It is unfortunate that they are letting one tough dada spoil the reputation of their village. I have spoken to the Director General of Police Mukesh Kumar Meena who had served an earlier term in Goa at a junior level. I have informed the SP North Goa and the Collector of the North Goa District.
In such cases the only solution is to either arrest the criminals under the National Security Act or extern them. In the case of habitual criminals the collector who is also the district magistrate has the right to extern Melwyn Fernandes not only from Aldona but from Goa for six months. I earnestly hope that the people of Aldona will come together and expel him out of the village.
So far it has only been Midit Sibal and his wife who have displayed the guts to file a criminal case of assault and attempt to murder against Melwyn Fernandes. Dear Aldonakars and whose who have relocated to Aldona because of the beauty of the village, do not let one such as this man spoil the reputation of your village. Support Mudit in his fight. Come together and give criminals an altimatum. Organise a social boycott if nothing else.
The degree to which you will be terrorised is only the degree to which you are willing to put up with the threats of bullies and terror-mongering criminals. I know because I have dealt with many of them in my 40 years in Goa. It is your fear that givens them their power – in this case it is “Bhivpachi kaich garaz na!”
ASSAULT AND ATTEMPT TO MURDER
By Neela Venkatraman
A feisty and fighting-spirited NEELA VENKATRAMAN recounts how she and her husband who were running Café Dona in Aldona peacefully (and legally) were ordered by the landlord to vacate in a brutal fashion. She asks, Are cases like ours of assault and robbery becoming commonplace in Goa and will we ever get justice? She and her husband were assaulted and threatened with murder when they sought to make some changes and shift their café somewhere else because of Covid-19 difficulties…a hair-raising account of Goa today.
My husband and I were running Café Dona in Aldona for a year-and-a-half since we launched it in February of 2019, that is last year.The place was given on lease by a management agreement with Mudit Sibal (my husband) by Melwyn Fernandes, R/o Quitla, the landlord. Mudit and me have been living in Carona for the last seven years and the idea of starting up a cafe sounded like a good venture to us to stay in Goa.
Things ran well in our café till the April of 2020, when post Covid-19 lockdowns it became necessary to shift to a smaller place in order to keep the café running just as a delivery and takeaway place. It was not possible to run Café Dona as a full time sit-down café. We gave the landlord a month’s notice and rent for the month of May and got ready to move to a smaller place on May 28, 2020.
However, on May 28 an absolutely brazen and daylight takeover happened. Actually it was an act of dacoity and theft conducted by the landlord Melwyn Fernandes; he sent a message to my husband Mudit Sibal not to come to the café, not to get in touch with him – because he has taken over the property. Mudit went to the café to find out what had happened and what the problem was, but for his pains he was brutally assaulted with a thick danda and a koita.
Melwyn Fernandes had changed all the locks overnight, locked the place up with all Cafe Dona’s equipment, furniture, laptop, cashbox and claimed that it was all his belongings. His diabolical plan (which came to light in just three days) was to open his café called La Bonita – with our Café Dona’s equipment, the same menu, with the same staff. Of course Mr Melwyn did not return the security deposit which he owed us.
Needless to say we registered an FIR for assault and theft amongst other complaints. When the Mapusa police went on a search to serve a seizure warrant Mr Fernandes having been tipped off by “local authorities” absconded. For three days his house was locked and he was not to be found with his wife and children.
But after three days he came to his home and began running La Bonita with our stolen equipment, inventory and cash left behind. Despite our complaints to the local police time and again we had to accept the fact that we were dealing with a man with a reputation of being a goonda or a local dada with a history of assault and using filthy abuse on several villagers and young women, including senior citizens. All this happening in an otherwise quiet and peaceful village of Aldona.
We had heard nasty stories about Melwyn Fernandes and how he operated especially around the beach belt, but for the scenario to be repeated with us as the victims must surely raise many questions about the laxness of law and order and the kind of bullying and intimidation used by a notorious goonda’s standard operating procedure to frighten and terrorise the innocent people he initially woos into doing business with him?
A second police warrant had to be issued to break open the locks and move into the property. Melwyn Fernandes did not appear when called by the police but instead sends his wife and two children. When the police went to the café next the place was completely empty of all furniture and equipment. Melwyn had stolen everything and moved it somewhere else. And then he goes ahead and files complaints against the police, our lawyer and whoever he can think of!
To cut to the present of our long and torturous story not only is this Melwyn Fernandes using every loophole in the legal system, but also openly challenging all the authorities by absconding whenever police looks for him to serve an arrest warrant. He surfaces somewhere with our Café Dona’s stolen equipment and cash to start his own café with our menu. All this has been happening in full awareness of everybody regardless of whether they are aware or unaware of what has happened. I see it as a case of daylight robbery with a local Aldona businessman getting away with it at our expense.
It has been six months now during which we have been seeking some justice and the matter to be resolved or the perpetrator of our arrested. But nothing moves in laid-back Goa. In the meanwhile Melwyn is out on anticipatory bail for himself and his accomplices knowing full that he is ed for Anticipatory Bail for himself and his accomplice knowing he is a thief and could be arrested any day soon (or so we believe). The coronavirus pandemic or Covid-19 the matter is being prolonged and either the court gets shut down or the judges do not sit for hearing or adjournments are the order of the day, Melwyn’s lawyer makes excuses to prolong the case. The next hearing scheduled for Nov 24, 2020, we are not certain about the outcome.
I wonder about why this has happened to us! From whichever angle one looks at this experience of it is a brazen and dishonest dishonour of the law. As if to say, as if the guilty would like to say: “You may do what you like but I am above the law!” Is this Goa when a local dada, well-known for his misdeeds, can get away with any act of use and abuse, vandalism and theft?
Surely Goa hasn’t degenerated to the Wild West? We who worked so hard to set up Café Dona are fighting for justice for ours is a straightforward case right and wrong and assault and theft. We want every single piece of equipment stolen to be returned – we have bills, payment proof done via bank transfers and a notarised copy of the same. Every single item we invested in should be returned to us, the owners. Every rent payment we made through one-and-a-half years including security deposit done via bank transfer should be returned to us and even then it is unimaginable how this kind of terror can be unleashed on us or anyone in our place.
The assumption in such persons as Melwyn Fernandes is that since we are not originally from Goa he can get away with anything because eventually he can do a lot of dadagiri to drive us away! He thinks we would eventually get tired of fighting and give in and go away. But we are determined to fight it out in a court of law for justice to be done to us. I hope what I report here brings some relief to other victims of Melwyn Fernandes too and they have the strength and courage to bring to light how someone with influence and muscle power can get away with acts of terror, intimidation and vandalism to benefit himself and also have the last laugh or so to speak. Will other Goans and distinguished residents of Aldona come forward? Join our campaign #JailGoondaMelywnFernandes.