The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a corruption case against former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad and his family members for allegedly accepting plots of land in exchange for jobs during his stint as Union Railways Minister.
The agency Friday carried out searches at 16 locations associated with Prasad and his family members, including his daughter Misa Bharti.
CBI sources said the locations were spread across Delhi, Patna and Gopalganj (Bihar). The agency has alleged that as many as 12 people from Patna were appointed to Group D posts in the Railways when Prasad was the Union minister. In lieu of these appointments, the family got seven plots of land in the city and elsewhere for a pittance, said officials. The plots belonged to the families of those 12 people.
According to the CBI, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief’s family acquired over 1 lakh sq. ft of land for Rs 26 lakh — the circle rate of that time puts the land’s cumulative value at more than Rs 4.39 crore.
Sixteen people have been accused in the FIR. They are Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi, and his daughters Misa Bharti and Hema Yadav, besides the 12 people who got jobs in the Railway zones of Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur and Hajipur.
The CBI began a preliminary inquiry into these allegations in September last year.
The development comes weeks after Yadav got bail in one of the fodder scam cases. He stands convicted in four fodder scam cases and is facing trial in another.
Yadav and his family members are also facing trial in another matter of alleged corruption dating back to his tenure as Railway Minister — he is accused of favouring a private company in awarding operation and maintenance contracts for two IRCTC hotels in lieu of prime land in Patna.
The CBI chargesheeted Prasad, Rabri and their son Tejashwi in the case, known as the IRCTC scam, in 2018.
The CBI FIR in the fresh case says: “Enquiry has revealed that some individuals although resident of Patna, Bihar but were appointed as Substitutes in group D post during the period 2004-2009 in different zones of Railway located at Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur, Hajipur and in lieu thereof the individuals themselves or their family members transferred their land in the name of family members of
Lalu Prasad Yadav, then Minister of Railway, Govt of India and a Company M/ s AK Infosystems Private Limited.”
According to the agency, all rights with the assets of AK Infosystems were transferred to Prasad’s family members in 2014. “Smt Rabri Devi had purchased the majority of shares of the above company in 2014 and subsequently became Director in the Company.”
According to CBI, among the seven land sale deeds, three were executed in favour of Rabri, one was in the name of Misa, one in favour of M/s AK Infosystems, and two gift deeds in favour of Hema.
“No advertisement or any public notice was issued for appointment of substitutes in Zonal Railway yet the above substitutes who are residents of Patna were appointed as Substitutes in different Zonal Railway located at Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur and Hajipur,” it said.
According to the CBI, applications were processed despite not being addressed to the Central Railway, Mumbai.
“Undue haste was shown in processing certain applications of candidates and surprisingly within three days from the date of receipt of respective applications, their appointments as Substitutes, were approved. In other Railway Zones also namely West Central Railway, Jabalpur and Western Railway, Mumbai, the applications, without complete address of the respective addressees, were processed and approved for appointment,” the CBI FIR said.
The RJD called the case “political vendetta of the worst order”.
Senior RJD leader Shakti Singh Yadav said: “We have been saying this right from the beginning. It is political vendetta of the worst order. BJP is targeting regional parties.”
Asked if the raids have anything to do with growing proximity of JD(U) and RJD of late, Yadav said: “That could be possible. BJP has been out to destroy regional parties like ours.”
RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewari added: “The timing of the raids smacks of political vendetta. Whenever there has been any hint of RJD and JD(U) getting closer, BJP resorts to such tactics.”
BJP spokesperson and Bihar Industry Minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said: “Allegations of CBI being misused stem from the RJD’s frustration.”
Senior JD(U) leader and Building Construction Minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary took a cautious stand. “The CBI has been doing its job. Let us not read politics into it.”
Also on Friday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a meeting of JD(U) ministers and MLAs who were present in Patna. JD(U) sources said leaders were asked to refrain from commenting on the CBI action and not attack or defend any party.
CBI teams raided the 10, Circular Road, Patna residence of Rabri. The teams also visited three other locations at Patna where Prasad’s family owns plots or houses. These locations are at Mahuabagh area near Phulwari Sharif, Danapur Khatal (cowshed) and Marachhiya Devi apartments in Ranjan Path. Besides Patna, raids are also being conducted at the Gopalganj house of Lalu Prasad.
Raids are being conducted in Gurgaon and Delhi and some other locations where the CBI suspects the family owns property.
While the ailing Prasad is in Delhi, Tejashwi has been away in London. Rabri is at her Patna residence along with her elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, who is not named in the case.
With inputs from Santosh Singh in Patna