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Delhi court grants bail to Lalu Prasad

Delhi court grants bail to Lalu Prasad
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Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad was on Saturday granted bail by a Delhi court in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation IRCTC scam...

New Delhi: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad was on Saturday granted bail by a Delhi court in the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) scam case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).Prasad, 70, serving sentences in fodder scam cases, is currently undergoing treatment at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Science in Ranchi.

Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj granted bail to Prasad on a personal bond of Rs one lakh and a surety of like amount. Lalu was earlier granted interim bail in the matter. Prasad's wife Rabri Devi and son Tejaswi Yadav were also earlier granted bail in the case. The court also put various conditions on the accused, including that they will not leave country without prior permission and not tamper with the evidence.

Meanwhile, the court extended the interim bail of Prasad, Devi, Tejaswi and others till January 28 in a separate case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged money laundering in the scam. The cases relate to alleged irregularities in granting the operational contract of two IRCTC hotels to a private firm.

According to the charge-sheet filed by the CBI, between 2004 and 2014, a conspiracy was hatched in pursuance of which BNR hotels of the Indian Railways, located in Puri and Ranchi, were first transferred to IRCTC and later, for its operations, maintenance and upkeep, given on lease to Sujata Hotels Private Limited, which is based in Patna, Bihar. It is alleged that the tender process was rigged and manipulated, and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party - Sujata Hotels.

Based on the CBI case, the ED also lodged a case of money laundering against Prasad, Devi, Yadav and others. The court will pronounce order on January 28 on the regular bail application of Prasad and others in the ED case. Among others named in the charge-sheet are: then group general managers of IRCTC V K Asthana and R K Goyal, as well as Vijay Kochhar and Vinay Kochhar, both directors of Sujata Hotels and owners of Chanakya Hotel.

Delight Marketing Company, now known as Lara Projects, and Sujata Hotels Private Limited have also been named as accused firms in the charge-sheet.The CBI registered a case in July 2017 and had carried out searches at 12 locations in Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Gurgaon in connection with the case. The charges in the case include criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption, CBI had said. It also claimed that on February 25, 2005, Vinay Kochhar sold commercial property in the form of three acres of land in Patna through 10 sale deeds for Rs 1.47 crore to Delight Marketing, in which Sarla Gupta was a director as a front benami holder on behalf of Prasad.

Between 2010 and 2014, this land was further transferred, CBI alleged. In 2001, it was decided to handover the management of catering services of the Indian Railways, including of its hotels, to the IRCTC. Two such hotels — BNR Hotels in Ranchi and Puri — were also identified and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the railways and the IRCTC on March 19, 2004.

According to an FIR filed by CBI, Prasad, the then railway minister, entered into criminal conspiracy with the owner of Sujata Hotels, Sarla Gupta, wife of his close associate Prem Chand Gupta, a Rashtriya Janata Dal MP in Rajya Sabha, and IRCTC officials for "undue pecuniary advantage to himself and others". The probe agency also alleged that BNR hotels were transferred to Sujata Hotels through a "rigged and manipulated" tender process managed by P K Goyal, the then managing director of IRCTC.

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