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Ex-selloff chief in hotel glare

Pradip Baijal

New Delhi, Aug. 28 (PTI): The CBI has registered a cheating case against former disinvestment secretary Pradeep Baijal and Bharat Hotels, which owns Calcutta’s Lalit Great Eastern, over the sale of the Centre-run Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur during NDA rule in 2002.

It is alleged the five-star Laxmi Vilas, then owned by the government-run India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and worth Rs 151 crore, was sold for Rs 7.5 crore. The hotel is spread over 29 acres of prime property.

Those named in the FIR include Baijal, Ashish Guha, then managing director of consultant Lazard India, and Kantilal Karamsey Vikamsey, the authorised representative of Bharat Hotels that owns the Lalit chain.

“It was alleged that Laxmi Vilas, a heritage hotel and one of the units of the ITDC (under the) department of tourism...with 54 rooms, was first drastically undervalued and then sold/disinvested at a price of Rs 7.52 crore,” a CBI spokesperson said today.

Land rates prevalent then indicated the hotel was worth around Rs 151 crore and, therefore, a loss of Rs 143.48 crore was caused to the ITDC, the spokesperson said. The reserve price for the loss-making facility — among three ITDC hotels cleared for sale that year — was Rs 6.12 crore.

Asked about the case, Baijal said he was not aware of it. “No one has spoken to me about it.” An email to Bharat Hotels went unanswered.