Lalu Prasad Yadav is reportedly unhappy over the "secretive" manner in which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against him and his family members and "quietly" procured search warrants from a designated court without even letting TV news channels know that 12 properties, including his official residence in Patna, were about to be raided.
As per Lalu's reasoning, the CBI shouldn't have conducted raids at places associated with him and his family while he was away in Ranchi to appear before a trial court to face charges in the fodder scam case. Only Lalu's wife Rabri Devi and son and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi were present at the Yadavs' Patna residence at the time the raids were conducted, he said.
The problem for Lalu is that things are much more serious, and he may not be able to solve them through his empty rhetoric anymore, like when he said, "I wouldn't rest till I throw Narendra Modi out of power."
Regarding the current charges against him, his defence is that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was born in 1999 during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and became functional in 2002, and an in-principle decision to handover some loss-making hotels run by the Railways to IRCTC was taken in 2003 when he was no longer railway minister. Incidentally, Nitish Kumar had become rail minister on this occasion. In essence, Lalu's argument is that if IRCTC hadn't been created, the scam wouldn't have taken place at all. He didn't say a word on alleged financial gains he made out of a 15-year lease deed of two railway hotels in Puri and Ranchi given to owners of Patna Chankya Hotel.
It seems in his hunger to create massive land bank for himself and his sons and daughters, he left behind substantive paper trails which would nail them all in due course.
On the afternoon of 5 July, CBI filed a case of criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct against Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejashwi Yadav, Sarla Yadav (wife of Prem Chand Gupta, a trusted aide of Lalu, and Union minister in the UPA government), Vijay and Vinay Kochar (director of Sujata Hotels Private Limited and proprietors of Patna's Hotel Chankya), PK Goel (the then IRCTC MD), M/s LARA Projects LLP (erstwhile Lara Projects and Delight Marketing Company Pvt Ltd), among others. After filing the case, CBI went to a special judge in New Delhi's Patiala House Court for necessary procedural clearance, observing utmost secrecy till such time that sleuths landed at the 12 premises on Friday morning.
Consider the facts of the case as detailed in the FIR filed by the CBI:
First of all, Lalu in his defence, says that the lease on two Railways' hotels — BNR Puri and Ranchi — was given to M/s Sujata Hotels, owners of Patna's Chankya Hotel thorough an open tendering process. But he is saying only half the truth. The CBI has a substantive case as to how the Kochars were favoured through a "rigged and manipulated" tender process.
Goel has been named in the FIR for managing the rigged tender process. The norms for the tender was changed to suit the Kochars. Though 15 tender documents were sold for Ranchi, CBI couldn't get any other tender document apart from Sujata Hotels with IRCTC. For BNR Hotel in Puri, 17 tender documents were sold and only two were received: By Sujata Hotel and M/s Hotel Kesari. The latter's papers were rejected under various heads of technical evaluation criteria, making M/s Sujata the only bidder for financial evaluation.
Secondly, Lalu's pecuniary gains and motives behind awarding a tender to the Kochars become clear through a series of sale deeds that were done outside of the railways' office. On 25 February, 2005, Vinay Kochar sold three acres of land in Patna to Lara Projects (company named after Lalu-Rabri with their family members as directors) to build the state's biggest shopping mall, through 10 sale deeds to M/s Delight Marketing. Sarla Gupta was its director, and the CBI believes that it was then a front benami holder for and on behalf of Lalu Prasad Yadav. This land was first sold to Sarla Gupta for Rs 1.47 crore, and the payment was made though cash but was "arranged surreptitiously in form of complicated investments in shares through a third party".
What is interesting to note is that the 25 February 2005 sale deeds were executed by the Kochars in favour of Prem Gupta's wife's company. Railway board informed IRCTC about its decision regarding transfer of BNR hotels on "as is where is basis".
Shortly after Lalu had to demit the rail ministry in 2009, shares of Delight Marketing were transferred from Sujata's name to Rabri Devi's and Tejashwi Yadav's. The company which was created for Lalu's family members was called Lara Projects private limited, which was further changed to Lara Projects LLP (Limited Liability Partnership Firm). Lalu's family members are partners and authorised signatories of this firm.
And finally, when inquiries revealed that Kochars sold the land to Prem Gupta's wife company Delight for Rs 1.47 when circle rate for the same was Rs 1.93 crore. But later, between 2010-2014, when shares of Delight were taken over by Lalu's Lara Projects, the circle rate of the same land (year 2014) was Rs 32.5 core and reportedly market rate was 94 crore. But Prem Gupta's wife chose to transfer the land valued this amount to Lalu's family at a nominal rate of around Rs 64 lakh.
Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav is faced with a situation where he could be nabbed by the CBI in due course. Even worse, when Nitish Kumar was an NDA ally and Lalu was a UPA ally, JDU had petitioned then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the same scam.
Updated Date: Jul 07, 2017 21:09 PM