While the CBI has been trying to question Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi in connection with a case of alleged corruption in IRCTC during Lalu’s tenure as Union railways minister, the Enforcement Directorate has decided to begin interrogations in the case with his wife Rabri Devi. The ED has sent summons to Rabri Devi to appear before it for questioning next week.
The CBI FIR, registered in July, names RJD leader Lalu, Tejashwi and Rabri, along with a former official of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and two others. On September 11 and 12, the CBI had summoned Lalu and Tejashwi for questioning but neither appeared. They had asked for more time because of court cases and “political commitments”. Sources said the ED had also summoned Rabri Devi last week, but she had sought more time on the ground of “personal commitments”.
The agency has earlier questioned former Union minister Premchand Gupta and Sarla Gupta in the case. The two were alleged to be instrumental in transfer of the prime piece of land in Patna to the Lalu family. Lalu was the Union Railways Minister between 2004 and 2009.
The ED case, registered under stringent sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, is based on a CBI FIR which has alleged that Railways-run BNR hotels in Puri (Odisha) and Ranchi (Jharkhand) were transferred to the IRCTC between 2004 and 2014, and were later given on lease to Sujata Hotels for operations, maintenance and upkeep.
The tender process for this was allegedly rigged to help Sujata Hotels. In return, a 3-acre land in Patna was given to Delight Marketing, a company where Sarla Gupta was a director, at a very low cost. Between 2010 and 2014, this land was transferred further to another company, Lara Projects, owned by Tejashwi and Rabri Devi, CBI and ED have alleged.
The CBI has alleged that Delight owned the land, valued at a market price of more than Rs 94 crore and a circle rate of over Rs 32 crore, before the company was sold to Lara Projects for Rs 65 lakh.
ED sources said the agency will ascertain proceeds of crime generated in the case and attach properties belonging to the accused that may have been bought with it. The land allegedly sold to Lalu’s family, where Bihar’s biggest mall is being built, could be the first one to be attached. “The land could be attached first as it appears to have been purchased with proceeds of crime,” an ED official said.
The official said the agency will question the accused and ascertain how much money each had earned. “This would include profits the two private individuals made after bagging the IRCTC hotel maintenance deal,” the official said. Officials said that the source of funds for the land purchase needs to be ascertained.