Two days after Rakesh Goel, the owner of Hotel Arpit Palace, was arrested, police arrested his 69-year-old brother on Tuesday. A fire at the hotel last week had claimed 17 lives.
“Shardendu Goel had applied for anticipatory bail in Tis Hazari court, which was rejected. We then arrested him and produced him in court, which sent him to four-day police custody,” said DCP (Crime) Rajesh Deo, adding that the hotel’s licence was in his name.
Rakesh was arrested from IGI airport on Saturday, following his arrival from Qatar. Police said Shardendu owns a hotel in Gurgaon, and was allegedly hiding with relatives in Haryana and Delhi. The brothers will be questioned together to ascertain the lapses that caused the blaze, said police. This is the fourth arrest in the case. Earlier, the hotel’s general manager and assistant manager were arrested.
During questioning, Shardendu told police that his brother had bought land, measuring 435 square yards, in 1988 for Rs 8.20 lakh. “Rakesh constructed his hotel —complete with a circular, wooden staircase and upholstery on the walls. He was running his hotel separately and doing his business. The hotel operated without a licence from 1993-2002… It was only in 2002 that Rakesh applied for and got a licence to run the hotel,” said a police officer familiar with the probe.
“Things changed in 2003-04, when a Jaipur-based gang of cheats was busted by the CBI. The cheats would come to Delhi and dupe people under the pretext of selling antique jewellery. The CBI, in its probe, found they were staying at Hotel Arpit Palace without giving any details, and were allegedly paying a hefty rent to Rakesh,” he added.
A senior CBI officer then wrote to the Delhi Police licensing unit to cancel the hotel’s licence. “Rakesh’s licence was cancelled; that’s when he asked Shardendu to apply for a new licence. In the meantime, Rakesh also created a company — Atul Construction Pvt Ltd — and made Arpit Palace a unit of the firm,” the officer added.
Police said Rakesh admitted that norms were violated by the hotel and that illegal construction was carried out on the entire plot, when permission was given to construct on just 60% of the land.
The hotel was mortgaged with a bank, from which Rakesh had taken a loan to run a liquor factory two years ago, an officer said.