The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday conducted searches at 27 locations, including an under-construction mall in Gurugram allegedly linked to Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, in connection with the 14-year-old land for railway jobs scam, officials said.
The raids came just hours before the 'Mahagathbandhan' government of Janata Dal-United, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress, the Left and other parties was going to face the no-confidence vote in the assembly.
Yadav gave a strong rebuttal to the agency's claims of linking him to the mall and said in the state assembly that it belongs to someone based in Haryana, and was inaugurated by a Bharatiya Janata Party MP.
According to the CBI, the mall belongs to Yadav who has made investment in the project through a company.
During the operation which was spread across Bihar and Delhi NCR, the agency's officers also raided the premises of RJD Rajya Sabha members and other leaders.
Seventy-one-year-old Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of JD-U ended the alliance with BJP earlier this month to rejoin the 'Mahagathbandhan'.
"People sitting in Delhi do not understand the spirit of Bihar. Intimidation does not work here. Sending three 'jamaai' (ED, CBI, I-T dept) is not going to scare us. The BJP is looking like a wedding procession without the groom," remarked the young leader in an apparent dig at the saffron party's inability to decide on who would now be the leader of the opposition.
The Registrar of Companies (ROC) details given on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website show that Whiteland Corporation was incorporated on February 14, 2021 with two directors Viren Mehta and Krishan Kumar, both Gurugram residents. Later, Mehta was replaced by Sumit Chaudhary, also from Gurugram.
According to a press statement issued by the company in September last year, BJP MP Dharambir Singh from Bhiwani was the chief guest at the launch function of Whiteland Corporation.
After completion of searches in late evening, the CBI claimed it has recovered 200 property sale deeds and "huge cash" during the searches.
The CBI had registered the FIR on May 18 against former Bihar Chief Minister and Yadav's father Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and daughters in connection with land for jobs scam when Prasad was Railway minister in the UPA government.
It is alleged that aspirants had sold their land to the Yadav family at cheaper than market price in return for jobs in Railways.
The CBI teams fanned across Bihar and Delhi-NCR early morning including the upcoming mall at sector 71 Gurugram, Urban Cubes 71, built by Whiteland Corporation, officials said.
When the team arrived at the site, it found that executives had left the location following which it expanded its operation to company's offices at the 10th floor of swanky Worldmark one, Maidawas Road, Sector 65, Gurguram and at seventh floor office of Elite Landbase at Golf View Corporate Tower in Sector 42 Gurugram, they said.
The searches came hours before the company Whiteland Corporation was going to announce the launch of a new low rise luxury residential project in sector 76 which was cancelled after the CBI operation started.
In Bihar, the searches at the premises of senior leaders of the RJD including MLC Sunil Singh and Rajya Sabha members Ashfaque Karim and Faiyaz Ahmad and former MLC Subodh Rai in Patna, Madhubani, Katihar among others.
As the CBI team carried out searches at his premises in Patna, MLC Singh, known to be close to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, said, "This is 100 per cent intentional. These people have entered my house without even informing the local police. They are asking me to sign a document."
Singh's wife said, "My husband is being victimised because of his loyalties. The CBI will get nothing from our place. I will sue the agency for defamation."
RJD spokesman Shakti Singh Yadav said, "I am hardly surprised. I had, in a tweet last night itself, had spoken of ED, CBI and IT planning their next operation in Bihar."
"Be it ED or CBI, all such raids are carried out to benefit the BJP," alleged RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha.
Congress spokesperson Asit Nath Tiwari said that with a change of guard, these officials may end up being probed by the very agencies in which they are holding posts.
"Officials of these agencies should remember that neither Hitler nor Mussolini lasted in power forever," he said.
JD-U chief spokesman and MLC Neeraj Kumar described the raids as "a dangerous game of 'shakti parikshan' (test of strength) by the central government in Bihar through CBI and ED".
The central agency had registered a preliminary enquiry on September 23, 2021 related to the land-for-jobs scam in Railways which was converted into an FIR on May 18.
The candidates were allegedly appointed as substitutes in group D positions within three days of applying in "undue haste" by Railway officials and were later regularised in return for the "individuals themselves or their family members transferred their land", according to the agency.
The transfers were made through deeds in the name of Rabri Devi and daughters Misa Bharti and Hema Yadav, the agency alleged.
The agency has alleged that land measuring about 1.05 lakh square feet in Patna was acquired by Prasad's family members by making payments to the sellers in cash.
"The current value of the above said seven parcels of land, including the land acquired through gift deeds, as per the existing circle rate is about Rs 4.39 crore... Enquiry has revealed that the parcel of land, which was directly purchased by the family members of Lalu Prasad from the sellers, was purchased at lower rates than the prevailing circle rates," the FIR alleged.
It further alleged that people were appointed in the railways without any advertisement or public notice issued for the purpose on the basis of forged documents.