The roots of the latest charges go back to 2005, the year the Railways – under Lalu as minister – decided to lease out its hotels to private companies for maintenance.
The corruption investigations into Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad rest on allegations emerging from a decade-long scandal involving a web of shell companies, benami land deals and Patna’s largest mall.
Lalu Prasad came under fire Friday following raids on dozen of his properties and his home in Patna, even though the former chief minister repeatedly called the charges a conspiracy. The CBI has also pressed charges against his wife Rabri and son Tejaswi Yadav, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister.
The raids sparked speculation on the future of the Yadav family’s association with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who came to power on his clean image and ‘zero tolerance’ on corruption. While investigators were gathering more details to bolster their case, the construct until now did appear politically ominous.
The roots of these charges travel back to 2005, the year the Railways – under Lalu as minister – decided to lease out its hotels to private companies for maintenance. Two of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri were leased out to Sujata Hotels, the owner of which allegedly transferred a 3-acre plot to a company owned by Sarla Gupta, wife of Lalu’s close aide, Prem Chand Gupta, also the Minister of Corporate Affairs from 2007 to 2009.
How did the land come under control of the Yadavs? It all starts in 1981, when Delight Marketing Pvt Ltd was incorporated, in whose name the BJP alleged the land was transferred. In 2005, Prem Gupta was one of the two directors of the company. Tejaswi Yadav was appointed director of the company in 2014, replacing Vijay Pal Tripathi, even Chanda Yadav, Ragini, and Tej Pratap—all children of Lalu, served as the directors of the company.
The name of the company was changed to Lara Projects Pvt Ltd in November 2016 and was converted to Lara Projects LLP in February 2017 with both minister brothers, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap, as partners in the firm. Lara Projects owns the land on which Patna’s largest mall is coming up.
The company, Delight Marketing, was engaged in import and export of goods, and the directors envisaged to venture into business of infrastructure and real estate development while changing the name.
The company has not shown any business activity from 2011, leading to suspicion that it might be a shell firm. In order to prove the allegations against the Yadavs, the CBI would have to show documents related to the transfer of the ownership of the land to this company, and in effect to the Yadavs as a bribe for the allotment of lease of the railway hotels in 2005.