Former Union Minister Arun Shourie has been named as an accused by a special CBI court in a corruption case involving the disinvestment of Lakshmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The court said criminal cases should be registered against Arun Shourie, former bureaucrat Pradeep Baijal and Hotel Jyotsna Suri.
The court wanted the sale of the hotel to be resumed and noted that it was sold to the government at a huge loss during Arun Shourie’s tenure as disinvestment minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
The court said that Hotel Lakshmi Vilas was valued at more than Rs 252 crore but it was sold for Rs 7.5 crore.
A former royal estate, Lakshmi Vilas is a five star hotel on the shores of Lake Fateh Sagar and is now called Lalit Lakshmi Vilas Mahal.
The CBI had filed a closure report in late 2019 stating that there was “no evidence” in the 2002 case. The agency said, “It has been concluded that no evidence has been found in the entire disinvestment process of Ms. Lakshmi Vilas Palace Hotel, Udaipur.”
However, a special court in Jodhpur dismissed the report and ordered further inquiry.
“I have not seen the order. The lawyers will look into the order and then we will decide what to do next,” Arun Shourie said on the CBI’s special court order.
The CBI has sought legal opinion.
According to the report of the investigating agency, the disinvestment of the government-run luxury hotel obtained by NDTV “resulted in a false loss of about Rs 143.48 crore to the government and personal / false gains to the guilty persons”.
However, the agency in its report had alleged a review by a private firm M / s Kanti Karamsi and the company which stated that the minimum value of the assets was Rs 7.85 crore and the reserve price was fixed at Rs 6.12 crore on the basis of this assessment. .
“During the investigation, we re-assessed the property through the Income Tax Department and it was valued at Rs 193.28 crore. Negligence of property by Kanti Karamsi and the company caused loss to the exchequer,” agency sources told NDTV. .
The CBI had registered a case on August 13, 2014 on the basis of a preliminary investigation alleging that Pradeep Baijal had misused his position in the disinvestment of Lakshmi Vilas Palace Hotel.
On the CBI’s closure report, the court said: “Unidentified officials and private individuals were involved in the conspiracy from 1999 to 2002 to cause loss of money to the government. The price of this land was Rs 45 per square yard. The hotel will be more expensive than that, ”the judge added.
Lakshmi Vilas Mahal was actually a royal estate belonging to the former kings of Udaipur. During the reign of the states, large estates were handed over to the government. After independence, the government operated it as a hotel. It was built in 2002 and bought by the Lalit Suri Group of Hotels.