A Kerala family may come into $900 mn Saudi bonanza
Thiruvananthapuram, April 22 (IANS) One family in Kerala, the Keyis of Kannur district, may have struck gold -- the state government has taken up with the centre the issue of about $900 million due to them, being held by the treasury of Saudi Arabia.
The state government is urging the centre to intervene to ensure the transfer of the money, amounting, in the 1950s, to 1.4 million Saudi riyals (one riyal today is equal to Rs.14.40), which has been lying in the Saudi treasury for the past nearly six decades.
Speaking to IANS, P. Naseer, director of the Minority Welfare Department, said that the Keyi family had, for over ten years, been trying to gain possession of the amount.
"The Kerala government has now appointed a special officer for this, to take up the matter with the centre. The centre will, in turn, have to speak to the Saudi Arabian authorities. The Keyi family has been trying for many years, but little headway has been made," Naseer told IANS.
Naseer said the matter was something he studied as part of his doctoral studies.
"The history of this treasure is like this: 136 years ago, a member of the Keyi family purchased land in the holy land of Mecca, and built a resting place for Haj pilgrims," Naseer said.
"In the 1950s, when the authorities, as part of modernisation of the infrastructure in and around Mecca, acquired this property, they set aside as compensation 1.4 million Saudi riyals. No one from the Keyi family has been able to effectively stake its claim to the money, with proper records," Naseer explained.
As per Wakf rules, any property dedicated to Allah can be claimed by none other than the person himself or his descendents. The Keyi family is thus entitled to the money, the director of the state minority welfare department said.
"According to current estimates, the deposit that is with the Saudi treasury would now be worth more than Rs.5,000 crore (about $900 million). Under Saudi law, if the family gets the money, it will have to use it there itself. The sum is enough to build residential properties for accommodating the faithful who arrive in the holy land," Naseer said.
Since 2001, the Keyi family has been attempting to claim the money. The then A.K. Antony government in the state had entrusted the matter to an official.
The present Oommen Chandy government has now appointed a special officer to liaison with the centre and concerned departments in this regard.