One of the grandest palace-hotels in Rajasthan was grossly undervalued and sold at a huge loss to the taxpayer in 2002 and former Union Minister Arun Shourie should be charged for it, a special CBI court has said. In a corruption case involving the sale of Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur, the court has asked for criminal cases against Arun Shourie, former bureaucrat Pradeep Baijal and hotelier Jyotsna Suri.
The court wants the hotel sale case to be reopened.
“Unknown officers and private persons indulged in this conspiracy from 1999 to 2002 to cause loss of money to the government. The land was valued at ₹ 45 per square yard. Even a spoon in the hotel would be costlier than that,” said a special CBI judge.
Hotel Laxmi Vilas was valued at over ₹ 252 crore but was sold for ₹ 7.5 crore to hotelier Lalit Suri, said the special CBI court. Jyotsna Suri took charge of the Lalit group of hotels after her husband Lalit Suri’s death.
Arun Shourie, a veteran journalist who was Disinvestment Minister at the time, said he would file a revision petition in the Rajasthan High Court against the order.
“When you dispose of a property the evaluation is based on various factors – the land rate, possibility of growth, business potential, assets and liabilities. All these are studied and were studied by not one man but by a firm appointed by the government. The entire committee looked at it. Due process was followed and then the property was sold,” Mr Shourie told NDTV.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace, a spectacular five-star hotel on the banks of the lake Fateh Sagar, is a massive draw for tourists and one of the most popular destinations in India.