New Delhi: The CBI on Friday carried out searches at 12 locations after registering a corruption case against former railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family members, including wife Rabri Devi and his son deputy chief minister of Bihar Tejaswi Yadav.
Lalu has been accused of accepting three acres of land for awarding an IRCTC contract to Sujata Hotel Private Limited to develop hotels in Ranchi and Puri. His family allegedly used a benami property to acquire the land.
Here’s a look at the case:
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was created by the Railways in 1999. In 2001, it was decided that the management of catering services, including hotel properties, will be given to IRCTC.
An MoU was signed in March 2004 wherein the management of two hotels — one in Ranchi and the other in Puri — would be taken care of by IRCTC.
Lalu became the railway minister in May 2004. He allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with Sujata Hotel Private Limited directors Vijay Kochar and Vinay Kochar, and Sarla Gupta, the wife of his close aide Prem Chand Gupta.
How the Alleged Scam Unfold
On February 25, 2005, the Kochars sold a commercial property measuring of three acres to Delight Marketing Company Pvt Ltd for Rs 1.47 crore, an amount much lower than the circle or market rate of Rs1.93 crore. Sarla Gupta was the director of Delight Marketing, an alleged shell company. The commercial plot was also allegedly shown as agricultural land to evade stamp duty.
The CBI further says that Bikramjeet Singh Ahluwalia, promoter of Ahluwalia Contracts, bought shares of Delight Marketing, which is how and thus how the shell company purchased the land.
The day the Kochars sold the land to Delight Marketing is reportedly the same day when the Railway Board said that the operation of BNR Hotels was being transferred to IRCTC.
Lalu and PK Goel, the then managing director of IRCTC, allegedly got the development, maintenance and operation of two BNR Hotels transferred to Sujata Hotel Private Limited through a “rigged and manipulated” tender process.
The Tender Trail
The notice inviting the tender allegedly only made a passing reference about the commencement of sale of bid for BNR Hotels. According to the CBI, the qualification bid was changed by issuing corrigendum to make it favourable for the Kochars. The CBI has said that Lalu as the railway minister was aware about the developments and allegedly kept a track of the tender proceedings.
While the IRCTC claimed that there were 15 bids for BNR Ranchi and 17 for BNR Puri, the only details with IRCTC were those of Sujata Hotels and Dinanath Hotels. But when the CBI asked for bid documents of Dinanath Hotels, no documents were available with IRCTC.
In case of BNR Puri, there were two bidders. Sujata Hotels and Hotel Kesari. The CBI has alleged that low marks were given to Hotel Kesari during technical evaluation to help Kochars “win” the bid.
Once Lalu demitted office as railway minister, shares of Delight Marketing were allegedly transferred from Sarla Gupta to Rabri Devi and her son Tejaswi Yadav. The name of Delight Marketing was changed to LARA Projects then to LARA Projects Limited Liability Partnership firm. LARA partners and authorised signatory are family members of Lalu Prasad Yadav. It is believed that LARA is named so for LAlu and RAbri.
Between 2010 and 2014, Lalu's family allegedly virtually took over Delight Marketing. The circle rate of the property was Rs 32.5 crore whereas the market rate was Rs 94 crore. According to the CBI, shares of Delight Marketing, with net worth of around Rs 32.5 crore, in form of real estate, were sold by Gupta’s family to Lalu family members for Rs 64 lakh.
Lalu has denied the allegations and accused the BJP of using the CBI to settle political scores.