The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today seized 11 plots of land in Patna worth Rs 44.75 crore, attached by the agency in the name of a firm linked to RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s family, as part of the IRCTC hotel money laundering case. The central probe agency was allowed to take possession of the seized assets by a designated PMLA authority recently. Officials said possession documents were notified and a huge notice board, bearing the signature of Assistant Director of the Delhi zonal office-I, was today put up at the contiguous plots, measuring about three acres, in Danapur near the Bihar capital. The action has been undertaken under section 8 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, they said.
The central probe agency had provisionally attached the plots, valued at Rs 44.75 crore (market rate), in December last year under the PMLA, in connection with the IRCTC hotel allotment case. The authority, in its recent order, had said that the assets were “involved in money laundering.” The land pieces are in the name of Delight Marketing Co Pvt Ltd, now Lara Projects LLP, whose managing partner is Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi, partners are his sons Tejashwi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav, and Meridian Construction India Limited promoted by Abu Dojana, an MLA of the former Bihar Chief Minister’s party — the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD). When the ED attached these assets last year, a shopping mall was supposed to come up on these plots. It also had recorded the statements of Rabri Devi, Tejashwi, the former deputy chief minister of Bihar, and others in the case.
In July last year, the agency registered a case against Lalu Prasad, his family members and others under the provisions of the PMLA. Before this, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a criminal first information report and conducted multiple searches on the properties of Lalu Prasad and others. The CBI FIR alleged that Lalu Prasad, during his tenure as the railway minister in UPA-I government, handed over the maintenance of two Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) hotels to a company in 2004 after receiving a bribe in the form of a prime land in Patna through a ‘benami’ company owned by Sarla Gupta, the wife of Prem Chand Gupta, a former Union minister and an RJD MP.
The ED registered its criminal case based on this CBI FIR. Others named in the CBI FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar (both directors of Sujata Hotels), Delight Marketing Company and the then IRCTC managing director P K Goel.
The CBI 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 accused can appeal against this order, issued by the authority, before the Appellate Tribunal of the Act.