Jodhpur: Former Union minister Arun Shourie on Wednesday denied any irregularity in the sale of an Udaipur hotel at an alleged loss of Rs 244 crore to the exchequer during the NDA government at the Centre around two decades ago. He said this while talking to the media in Jodhpur after furnishing a bail bond in a CBI court in the case pertaining to the sale of public sector Indian Tourism Development Corporation’s Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel to a private firm. The property was sold to Bharat Hotels Ltd for Rs 7.52 crore when Shourie was the minister in charge of disinvestment in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre.
During a preliminary investigation by the CBI, the property was valued at Rs 252 crore, suggesting a loss of Rs 244 crore to the exchequer. Last month, a special CBI court had issued arrest warrants against Shourie and four others. The Rajasthan High Court stayed the arrest warrants while asking the accused to furnish bail bonds and sureties in the trial court. Denying the allegations, the former Union minister said a strict procedure was adopted under Vajpayee’s supervision.
This was my principle and direction of Atalji to adhere to the procedure, he told reporters in Jodhpur. He stressed that the matter had first come up before an inter-ministerial committee after which it was taken up by a committee of secretaries and then the cabinet committee on disinvestment, which was headed by the late prime minister. Shourie said investigation into the matter had started in 2014 following an anonymous complaint. The CBI filed a closure report twice, stating that there was no irregularity in the deal. There were 14 points in support of the CBI’s observation and the high court has also admitted it, he said, adding that even if the CBI court felt there was something wrong, let the re-inquiry happen. Earlier in the day, the former Union minister appeared in a CBI court to furnish his bail bond and two sureties. Shourie furnished a bail bond of Rs 2 lakh while two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each were furnished by former Barmer-Jailsalmer MP Manvendra Singh Jasol and his wife Chitra Singh. The CBI court has listed the matter for hearing on October 15. The other accused in the case are former disinvestment secretary Pradip Baijal, MD of Lazard India Limited Ashish Guha, MD of Bharat Hotels Limited Jyotsana Suri and hotel’s valuer Kantilal Vikamsey.
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