The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, son Tejaswi and others for alleged corruption in the award of a contract for managing two railway hotels.
The contracts were awarded to a Patna-based private company, Sujata Hotels, allegedly in lieu of a three-acre plot of land. The land was later acquired by Mr. Prasad’s family, the CBI alleged.
The case was registered on Thursday under Sections 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy), following which the agency conducted searches at a dozen locations in Delhi, Gurugram, Ranchi, Patna and Puri on Friday.
Mr. Prasad, who was in Ranchi to appear before a CBI court in a fodder scam case, said the raids were the result of “political vendetta” and that he would not be “cowed down by such acts.”
He also alleged that the BJP and the RSS were behind the “bullying tactics.”
Mr. Prasad said, “Ever since I started the ‘BJP bhagao, desh bachao’, campaign, the BJP-led Central government has been after me and has launched continuous attacks on me and my family.”
Among those named in the FIR are Sarla Gupta, wife of Mr. Prasad’s close associate Prem Chand Gupta (a Rajya Sabha member); Vijay and Vinay Kochhar, directors of Sujata Hotels; Delight Marketing Company Pvt. Ltd (DMCPL); Lara Projects LLP, and former IRCTC managing director P.K. Goel.
CBI additional director Rakesh Asthana told the media that the case was based on a complaint that Mr. Prasad, after taking over as Railway Minister in May 2004, colluded with the Kochhars through IRCTC officials and Ms. Gupta to sub-lease two Railway hotels at Puri and Ranchi to Sujata Hotels in 2006.
The hotels were first transferred to the IRCTC and then sub-leased.
The agency alleged that the tender conditions were tweaked to favour Sujata Hotels in lieu of a three-acre commercial property in Patna.
As part of the “conspiracy,” the Kochhars sold the land to DMCPL, in which Ms. Gupta was a director “as a front for Mr. Prasad”, the CBI said. The land was transferred through 10 sale deeds for ₹1.47 crore, against the then circle rate of ₹1.93 crore. It was allegedly shown as agricultural land to evade stamp duty.
The amount was arranged in the form of an investment in DMCPL shares through Ahluwalia Contracts (India) Limited and its promoter, Bikramjeet Singh Ahluwalia.