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Hotels-for-land scam: Lalu, Tejashwi seek more time from CBI for quizzing

CBI had asked Lalu Prasad and Tejashwi Prasad Yadav to appear before it in New Delhi on September 11 and 12, respectively.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2017 22:21 IST
Alok Mohit
RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi  Prasad Yadav.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. (PTI file photo)

Patna Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and his son, former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, on Saturday told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that they would not be able to appear before it for questioning in the hotels-for-land scam on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, as they were “preoccupied”.

The CBI had on Thursday asked he RJD chief to appear before it in New Delhi on September 11 and Tejashwi on the next day in connection with irregularities in awarding contracts during Prasad’s tenure as the railway minister (2004-09).

Prasad’s lawyers on Saturday informed the CBI that the RJD chief would not appear before the probe agency as he was preoccupied attending trial in fodder scam cases he was facing. “Prasad will be busy with court proceedings next week when defence witnesses are likely to depose,” the lawyers said

Tejashwi, at present leader of opposition in Bihar legislative assembly, has requested the CBI for exemption from questioning on September 12 as he had to fulfill some “prior political commitments”.

The father-son duo, who later left Patna for Bhagalpur by train, have sought more time to appear before the CBI for questioning.

Prasad – convicted in a fodder scam case – continues to face legal troubles. One of the five fodder cases has been reopened. Following a Supreme Court order on May 9, 2017 to complete the trial within nine months, the special CBI courts have begun hearing the cases on priority basis. Prasad has had to travel to Jharkhand to appear before different courts on a weekly basis.

The CBI is examining possible irregularities in the awarding of contracts to operate Indian Railways’ BNR hotels in Ranchi and Puri to Sujata Hotels in 2005 when Prasad was railway minister and whether the RJD leader and his family benefitted from it.

On the day of transfer of the BNR hotels, owners of Sujata Hotels Vinay Kochhar and Vijay Kochhar had allegedly sold two acres of prime land in Patna to an intermediary company called Delight Marketing, now known as Lara Projects for Rs 1.5 crore, far below the market price. The Delight Marketing Company, owned by Sarla Gupta, wife of former Union minster Prem Chand Gupta, allegedly transferred the land gradually to Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi between 2010 and 2014.

The CBI had searched the homes and properties of Prasad and his family at 12 locations in Patna, Delhi, Gurgaon, Puri and Ranchi on July 7 as part of investigations into alleged irregularities in leasing out railway hotels.

A day earlier, the CBI had filed FIR against Lalu, Rabri Devi, Tejashwi Yadav, businessmen Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar, Sarla Gupta and then managing director of IRCTC, PK Goel.

Prasad and his family are facing a spate of allegations of amassing huge benami property.

The Income Tax department had recently raided 22 locations in New Delhi and adjoining places, related to land and farm houses owned by Lalu’s daughter, Misa Bharti and her husband Shailesh Kumar. After questioning by the Enforcement Directorate, it provisionally attached a farm house (26, Palam Farms, Bijwasan, in New Delhi) on September 5.

Tejashwi is alleged to hold big stakes in a company promoting Bihar’s biggest mall in the state capital worth Rs 750 crore. Another son Tej Pratap is alleged to hold big tracts of land; and daughters – Misa, Hema and Ragini – have been accused of being directors in many shell companies. In all of this, the charge is that Lalu’s position in power was misused to amass assets.

There are also accusations against Prasad of taking prime land from RJD’s senior leaders like Raghunanth Jha, Kanti Singh and few ordinary people in lieu of ministerial berths and jobs during his stint at railway minister.

STRAP

PLEA Prasad’s counsel says he will be preoccupied with court proceedings next week when defence witnesses in fodder scam cases are likely to depose, while Tejashwi has to fulfill some ‘prior political commitments’