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Centaur deal: Govt mulls probe

May 04, 2005 17:28 IST

Observing that the then divestment minister Arun Shourie may have taken 'active interest' in the divestment of Juhu Centaur hotel near Mumbai airport, the government on Wednesday indicated that it would consider an inquiry into the issue only after receiving the final CAG report.

"On getting the CAG report, further action or further inquiry into the matter will be decided," Finance Minister P Chidambaram said responding to a strong plea by members in the Lok Sabha, mainly belonging to Left parties, for a CBI probe.

Replying to a calling attention motion moved by CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia on the divestment of the Centaur Hotel, he said: "Surely it seems that the (then divestment) minister (Arun Shourie) took active interest in the transaction."

Chidambaram said the government was waiting for the final report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which was expected 'very shortly.'

On whether there was any under-valuation of the public sector Hotel, Chidambaram said he could not comment as the matter was being inquired into by the CAG. "I have to wait for its final report."

A number of ruling UPA members then demanded that the government institute a joint parliamentary committee probe into the deal.

Earlier, moving the motion, Acharia dubbed the sale of the hotel as 'highly questionable' and wanted to know how the evaluation was done.

Pointing out that in one year the hotel price went up from Rs 153 crore (Rs 1.53 billion) to Rs 350 crore (Rs 3.50 billion), the CPI-M leader sought to know whether the property acquired by former Air-India board member Ajit Kelkar was under-valued.

"Why was the government in a hurry to divest when there was only one bidder fulfilling the obligation. Everything was done in a fraudulent manner," he said, demanding a CBI inquiry.

Supporting Acharia, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said it was one of the examples where the then government did 'something fraudulent' and wanted the Manmohan Singh government to find out if the then concerned minister was 'himself interested in the deal.'

Voicing concern over banks like Punjab National Bank, United Bank of India, Bank of India, LIC and UTI coming to the rescue of the buyer, the members wondered 'how a fraudulent deal was being financed' and demanded an open judicial inquiry.

They were supported in their contention by Shailendra Kumar (Samajwadi Party) and Rup Chand Pal (CPI-M).

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