CBI court in Jodhpur has ordered the filing of criminal cases against former Union disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, former bureaucrat Pradeep Baijal and hotelier Jyotsna Suri on allegations of corruption in the sale of a government-run hotel in 2002. The case pertains to the sale of Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur, which was a unit of Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).

Earlier, the investigative agency has said that the hotel was sold “at much below the prescribed rates, resulting into huge monetary loss” to the exchequer. The hotel was valued at over ₹ 252 crore but was sold for ₹ 7.5 crore to hotelier Lalit Suri in 2002, it said.

Directing the CBI to file criminal charges against those involved, The special CBI judge, Pooran Kumar Sharma said one of the grandest palace-hotels in Rajasthan was grossly undervalued and sold at a huge loss to the taxpayer in 2002. The Court also ordered that the hotel in question to be handed over to the state government.

“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,” the Judge said, according to a report by NDTV.

Earlier, Shourie had dismissed charges of corruption and said the decision was approved by the financial advisers. “The valuer was selected from a government-approved list of financial advisors and everybody accepted that. This value was challenged before the Rajasthan High Court, and in 2002, the court upheld the disinvestment and said that there is no basis at all for the allegation, Economic Times quoted him as saying.

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