Former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi on Wednesday skipped her scheduled appearance before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with its money laundering probe in the railway hotels allotment corruption case, officials said. The central probe agency, they said, has now asked her to appear on October 16.
Rabri Devi, the wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, has earlier twice skipped the ED summonses in this case. It was not immediately clear if she furnished any reason for her absence on Wednesday. The ED on Tuesday had questioned her son and former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav for about nine hours in connection with this case. The CBI has also recently recorded the statement of Tejashwi Yadav and Lalu Prasad in this case.
The ED had registered a criminal case against the Lalu Prasad family members and others under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) sometime back. It had earlier questioned a few people in this case including the wife of former UPA minister P C Gupta. The agency had taken cognisance of a CBI FIR in this regard to initiate its own criminal complaint.
In July, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a criminal FIR (first information report) and conducted multiple searches against former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad and others. The ED will investigate the alleged “proceeds of crime” generated by the accused, purportedly through shell companies, officials had said.
Rabri Devi, Tejashwi Yadav and others will be probed by the agency under charges filed in the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the ED equivalent of a police FIR. The case dates back to the time when Lalu was the railway minister in the UPA government. Others named in the CBI FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar (both directors of Sujata Hotels), Delight Marketing company, now known as Lara Projects, and the then IRCTC managing director P K Goel.
The CBI FIR alleges that Prasad, as railway minister, handed over the maintenance of two IRCTC 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 favours allegedly extended to Sujata Hotels in awarding a contract for the upkeep of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri and receiving premium land as ‘quid pro quo’. The ED, under the PMLA, has powers to attach and confiscate tainted assets and it is expected that the agency will initiate such a move once it makes progress in the case.