The case, for which Lalu Yadav and his wife and son, who is Bihar deputy chief minister, have been booked, dates back to when he was Union railway minister in the UPA government.The searches, which started at 7 am and included Rabri Devi’s Circular Road residence in Patna, were spread across 12 locations in Patna, Ranchi, Gurgaon and Bhubaneswar. The raids included the premises of the Yadav family as well as those of his confidant Prem Chand Gupta, whose wife Sarla Gupta is listed as an accused in the FIR.
Addressing the media after the CBI raids Lalu Yadav dispelled rumours about lengthy interrogation, "Reports of questioning with Rabri Devi for 10 hours and Tejaswi Yadav for 8 hours are false," he said.
Others named in the FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar (both directors of Sujata Hotels), Delight Marketing company, now known as Lara Projects, and then IRCTC managing director P K Goel.
It is alleged that Lalu Yadav as railway minister handed over the maintenance of two railway hotels to a company after receiving a bribe in the form of prime land in Patna through a benami company owned by Sarla Gupta.
The FIR was registered on July 5 in connection with alleged favours extended to Sujata Hotels in awarding a contract for the upkeep of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri and receiving premium land as a “quid pro quo”, the CBI has alleged.
Briefing the media on the case, CBI Additional Director Rakesh Asthana said the criminal conspiracy spanned 2004-14 during which the tender process was “rigged” in favour of Sujata Hotels.
“In return, the owners of Sujata Hotel gave three acres of land in western Patna to Delight Marketing which is known to the family of Lalu Yadav at a very low cost. Subsequently, between 2010 to 2014, this land was further transferred to another company Lara Projects owned by family members of Lalu Yadav,” he said.
Asthana, second in command in the CBI who had supervised the fodder scam probe in the CBI as DIG in which Lalu Yadav was convicted, said the case was registered under IPC sections related to cheating and criminal conspiracy and provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Ironically, Lalu Yadav was on Friday in Ranchi to appear in a CBI court in connection with a case related to the multi-crore fodder scam.
The RJD termed the raids, which prompted speculation on the future of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress coalition government in Bihar, political vendetta.
The Centre began tightening its noose around Lalu Yadav ever since he “announced a massive ‘Desh bachao, Bhajpa hatao rally’ on August 27 in Patna”, RJD’s Bihar unit president Ramchandra Purbey said in Patna.
Back in Delhi, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu rebutted the charge and said the CBI was doing its duty and the BJP or the government had no role in it.
“... After our government came there is no interference and that is why CBI is free and acting as per the mandate given to it...,” he told reporters.
The roots of the current case go back to the 2001 decision of the then NDA government to hand over management of catering services of railway hotels to IRCTC.
When Lalu Yadav became railway minister in 2004, he allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy with Kochhars (owners of Sujata Hotel) and Sarla Gupta and unidentified IRCTC officials to earn “undue pecuniary” advantage for himself, the CBI FIR claimed.
Vinay Kochhar is alleged to have sold three acres of premium land in Patna for Rs 1.47 crore to Delight Marketing on February 25, 2005 which was way below the circle rate.
After the sale deed was executed in favour of Delight Marketing, the Railway Board, on the same day, informed IRCTC about its decision to transfer BNR (railway) hotels to IRCTC on “as is where is basis”, the FIR alleged.
The upkeep of the two BNR hotels were transferred by the IRCTC to Sujata Hotels through a tender process allegedly manipulated by P K Goel, then MD IRCTC, the CBI said.The conditions were further tweaked to make Sujata Hotel the sole contender for the bid, the agency alleged.
According to the CBI, Lalu Yadav, as railway minister, kept track of the tender proceedings.
While over 15 bid documents were received for both the hotels, IRCTC has no records of bidders other than Sujata Hotel.
Between 2010 and 2014, the ownership of Delight Marketing also changed hands from Sarla Gupta to Lara Projects owned by Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav when Lalu Yadav was no longer minister. By this time, the value of the Patna land had also spiralled to Rs 32.5 crore as per the circle rate, the CBI claimed.
“The shares of a company having a net worth of Rs 32.5 crore was transferred by the family member of P C Gupta to the family members of Lalu Prasad Yadav for a nominal amount of Rs 64 lakh,” it alleged.