The CBI Wednesday began a probe into 18 cases referred to it by the Rajasthan government for alleged irregularities in land deals in Bikaner by companies, including one linked to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The CBI FIRs are basically re-registration of FIRs filed by Rajasthan police in connection with the land deals. The Enforcement Directorate is already conducting a probe into alleged money laundering in the Kolayat land deals — the agency did not mention the name of Vadra or any company linked to him in its FIR and Vadra’s lawyers have in the past rejected allegations that he was linked to the deal.
A CBI spokesperson said: “The cases pertain to fraudulent and fictitious claims and allotments in lieu of land acquired for Mahajan Field Firing Range Bikaner, which is used by the Army.” Of the 18 FIRs registered by the agency, 16 were lodged at the Gajner police station while two at Kolayat police station in Bikaner between August and September 2014, CBI sources said. The Rajasthan government had written to the CBI for a probe into the alleged land scams in Bikaner, including those involving a company linked to Vadra.
On August 22, after referring the matter to CBI, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria had said: “As many as 18 FIRs are registered. Four of them are against Vadra’s company which were allegedly involved in illegal purchase of nearly 275 bigha land. All the 18 FIRs are in connection with the purchase of close to 1,400 bigha land in fake names.”
Kataria had alleged that Vadra’s company was the third party to purchase 275 bigha of land in 2010 and sold it to a fourth party in 2012. “When the matter came to light, 18 FIRs were registered. Four FIRs are related with Vadra’s company and now the state government has written to the CBI to investigate them altogether. The issue was also raised in the state assembly in 2014,” he said.
Responding to the Rajasthan government’s move, state Congress president Sachin Pilot had said, “BJP misuses CBI, ED and other agencies for political gains. In this alleged land scam case, the state government had formed a committee but the committee’s findings were not disclosed by the government. Those who have been arrested in the land scam are connected with BJP. If BJP people are being arrested in the land scam, then we are ready for any probe.”
On December 31, 2014, the Rajasthan government cancelled 18 mutations in Bikaner after finding them to be illegal. It was alleged that land was illegally allotted or possessed in 2006-07 by some villagers, who were “wrongfully” shown as farmers displaced by the acquisition of land for the Mahajan Field Firing Range for the Army. It was alleged that Vadra’s company also purchased chunks of land. The farmers who were actually displaced were allotted land between 1992 and 1996.