Lalu Prasad family and CBI searches: all you need to know
As the CBI registered a case and conducted searches in the residence of former Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad in Patna and in some locations in Gurugram, Delhi, Ranchi and Puri following corruption charges against him, his wife Rabri Devi, son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav and some others, here’s all you need to know about the issues concerning the development.
What is the charge?
Mr. Prasad was Railway Minister in the UPA-I government between 2004 and 2009. The CBI’s charge is that Mr. Prasad, Ms. Devi and Mr. Tejaswi Yadav indulged in corruption by misusing the position of the RJD chief.
What does the CBI say?
The CBI registered the case against Mr. Prasad, Ms. Devi and Mr. Tejaswi Prasad Yadav and others on the charge of corruption in awarding contracts for maintenance of hotels. The others were: Sarla Gupta, wife of Mr. Prasad’s associate and Rajya Sabha member Prem Chand Gupta; Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar, who were directors of Sujata Hotels; Delight Marketing and former IRCTC managing director P.K. Goel
What are the specifics of the charges?
The CBI alleges corruption in the award of a tender for the development, maintenance and operation of BNR Heritage Hotels in Ranchi and Puri to Sujata Hotels in 2006 during Mr. Prasad’s tenure as Railway Minister. The accused have been booked under Prevention of Corruption Act as well as cheating and criminal conspiracy.
The CBI claims that a conspiracy was hatched between 2004 and 2014 to transfer BNR Hotels in Puri and Ranchi to IRCTC and a tender floated later for the hotel’s management was tweaked to ensure that it went to the Patna based Sujata Hotels. In lieu of the alleged favour, 3 acres in Patna were given to Delight Marketing, purportedly a front company linked to Mr. Prasad, at just ₹1.47 crore, against the government’s guideline value (aka circle rate). In 2010, Mr. Prasad’s family members started taking over the Delight Marketing and completed the process in 2014. By then the land was worth ₹32.5 crore as per circle rate, and ₹94 crore in market value. The CBI’s case is that the company worth at least ₹32.5 crore was transferred to Mr. Prasad’s family members for the payment of just ₹65 lakh.
Where does the investigation stand now?
The CBI registered the case on the basis of a complaint filed in June 2017 and the FIR was registered on July 5, 2017. Ten plots of land are under investigation. On July7, 2017, the CBI conducted the searches. The CBI action comes weeks after the Income Tax Department searches against Mr. Prasad, his family members and associates and the attachment of several properties under the newly enacted anti-benami assets law. The Enforcement Directorate, which has powers to register money laundering cases based on CBI FIRs, is currently probing the assets of some close relatives of Mr. Prasad in connection with alleged use of shell companies to launder funds.
How did Mr. Prasad react?
Mr. Prasad says he had not broken any rule or regulation in awarding the two hotels of the Railways to the IRCTC. “Everything was done according to rule and regulations… if CBI officials would ask me, I’m ready to explain them in detail”, he said. “IRCTC was formed in 1999 and I became Railway Minister in 2004… as per rules laid down by the then NDA government an open tender of these two hotels were floated for 15 years on lease…if anyone can prove where is my signature or I’ve done anything wrong I’m ready for the punishment.”
Alleging political vendetta, he said: “It’s all part of it… [Narendra] Modi, Amit Shah and RSS are responsible for the raid to frighten me and bully me…but, I’ll not, come what may.”
What does the BJP say?
On July 5, 2017, Bihar BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi said at a press conference in New Delhi that Mr. Prasad acquired 125 pieces of property in Patna, Delhi and Kolkata during his tenure as Railway Minister, and during his wife Rabri Devi’s stint as Bihar Chief Minister between 2000 and 2005. “I have been disclosing his [Mr. Prasad] family’s property details for the last 90 days. They have acquired more than 125 properties in the last 12 years without any real business or industry. Lalu Prasad is Bihar’s Robert Vadra,” he said.