Business India

Deepak Talwar case; ED attaches Rs 120 cr Delhi hotel

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday said it has provisionally attached Holiday Inn hotel worth Rs 120 crore in connection with a money laundering case against aviation lobbyist Deepak Talwar.

The hotel is located at Aerocity in Delhi and valued at around Rs 120.20 crore, it said.

Investigation against Talwar was initiated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in August 2017 on the basis of an FIR registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation against officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry, National Aviation Co of India Ltd, Air India and unknown private persons, the ED said in a statement.

“It has been revealed that Deepak Talwar illegally engaged in liasoning/lobbying with politicians, ministers, other public servants and officials of Ministry of Civil Aviation for airlines such as Emirates, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways for securing undue benefits for them.

“He illegally managed to secure favourable traffic rights for these airlines during 2008-09 at the cost of national carrier Air India,” the investigative agency said.

Investigations revealed that in lieu of securing favourable traffic rights, these airlines made payments to the tune of Rs 272 crore to Talwar in 2008-09, it added.

The ED alleged that Talwar created a web of entities owned by him and his family members in India and international offshore havens to launder the proceeds of crime.

“Part of these payments were made to a bank account in Bank of Singapore, belonging to a company – M/s Asiafield Ltd – registered in the British Virgin Islands and beneficially owned by Deepak Talwar.

“These proceeds of crime were layered through a series of international money transfers, to finally integrate in India in M/s Wave Hospitality Pvt Ltd, a company beneficially owned and controlled by Deepak Talwar and his family members in the name of his son Aditya Talwar,” it said.

“These proceeds of crime were then utilized in the construction of Holiday Inn in Aerocity, New Delhi,” it added.

Talwar fled the country in 2017 to avoid investigation. He was deported by immigration authority of Dubai on January 31 and arrested under PMLA. He is now in judicial custody.

The agency said that further investigation was in progress.



Probing if hotel fire was a deliberate act; Crime Branch

Probing the dreadful fire in a Delhi hotel in which 17 people were killed on Tuesday, the Crime Branch has shifted its focus to investigating the possibility of a deliberate attempt at aggravating the fire inside the premises to settle an insurance claim by the owner, sources said.

“The owner had a huge debt of Rs 56 crore which they were unable to repay. Their hotel had not been doing well since last year and he had tried to sell it. The e-auction bid of Rs 27 crore did not materialize. The next auction bid was due on March 31,” General Secretary of Delhi Hotels Mahasangh, Arun Kumar told IANS. 

On the second day of its probe, the Crime Branch team visited the hotel along with forensic experts and two hotel general managers Rajinder Singh and Manager Vikas Kumar who were earlier arrested and are currently in two-day police custody.

“The team recreated the scene and corroborated the sequence and evidences, matching with the timings of the fire incident. They also quizzed Rajinder Singh and Vikas Kumar about theirs activities,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rajiv Ranjan.

“The team also made an over 30-minute film with a high definition camera at all the inner part of the entire 435-yard area of the hotel from basement to top floor cafeteria and kitchen. We are in the process of checking whether the Arpit Hotel owners — Rakesh Goel and Shardendu Goel– applied for insurance of the property,” Ranjan said.

“The FSL experts also collected samples of burnt objects and also collected other technical evidences to check the gravity and frequency of flames that spread very rapidly through corridors from the first floor to envelop second, third and fourth floors, including the rooftop cafeteria,” an FSL officer told IANS.

“We also took samples of ash from room number-109 located on the first floor from where the fire broke out. We collected the samples to establish whether it was a planned and a criminal conspiracy or it was an accident due to a short-circuit. The collected samples evaluation report will clear the exact picture,” the officer said.

“The report will likely be available within 20 days, depending on the nature of investigation,” he added.

“A preliminary investigation revealed that on the night of the fire, there were 12 hotel employees on duty. But instead of helping the guests, nine of the staff escaped after the hotel was engulfed in the fire,” he said.

“It was found that some victims did dial the reception number to inform the manager about the fire, but there was no one to answer the calls. Manager Vikas Kumar came to know about the fire a little later, and he and other staff members immediately called the owner, Shardendu Goel, but he did not answer their calls. They informed the fire department at 4.35 a.m. — over half-an-hour after the fire had already spread,” the officer said.

“Instead of helping the guests, nine of the hotel staff, including Vikas Kumar, escaped, leaving 60 guests in the lurch. Most victims who were sleeping died due to suffocation,” he said.



FDA Inspector among 17 dead in Arpit Palace hotel fire

An Inspector with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from Pune was one of the 17 persons who died in a fire tragedy at Arpit Palace hotel in the heart of the national capital on early Tuesday.

“Rahul Kumar, who was in Delhi, had talked to his wife over phone informing her that he would return on Tuesday, but he did not know he would also die along with two of his friends — Dr Shankar Narayan and Dr Santosh Wale — who were putting up in Room No. 401 of the hotel,” his relative Srinivasan told IANS.

Dr Shankar Narayan from Tamil Nadu and Dr Santosh Wale had come to Delhi to attend a medical seminar in Connaught Place. They had booked a room in the ill-fated hotel.

“On Monday night, they called their old friend Rahul Kumar for a meeting in the hotel. Rahul told his wife that he wanted to leave but he would stay with Santosh Wale and Shankar Narayan due to their insistence,” Srinivasan said.

“In the fire tragedy, they all were suffocated to death after being trapped in their room and could not get out,” he added.



Lack of safety measures led to Arpit hotel fire; Crime Branch

No panic alarm, inflammable temporary structures and an unauthorized kitchen in the basement — these were the many irregularities found by the Crime Branch at Arpit Palace Hotel, a day after a massive fire swept through it in the early hours, killing 17 people and injuring eight in the national capital.

“During investigation it was found that the fire broke out from room No. 109 located at the first floor of the hotel. The room was found totally gutted and the hall’s inner wirings were burnt down,” said a Crime Branch officer.

“The fire spread through corridors from the first floor to envelop second, third and fourth floors, including the rooftop cafeteria. The fire did not spread to the ground and basement. At first glance the cause of fire is short-circuit which might have triggered sparking and fire, rapidly covering the entire hall portion,” the officer said.

“A Crime Branch team headed by Deputy Commissioner of Polce Rajesh Deo will take over the charge from Thursday. A Crime Branch team visited the hotel and collected some evidence on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rajiv Ranjan.

The FIR accessed by IANS said: “The hotel, owned by Shardendu Goel, used inflammable material such as rubber, ply-board and plastic for decoration on corridors, gallery and lobby. There were no signages for an emergency exit.”

“Most victims died after inhaling smoke. The victims staying on the first to fourth floors could not find their way out as a thick black smoke engulfed the entire area when they woke up after hearing cries of fire. There was no ventilation,” the crime branch officer said.

As per the Arpit Hotel record, there were 46 rooms of which 35 were occupied by 60 guests on Monday night. There were 12 hotel employees including the manager, Vikas, on night duty. Instead of helping guests, nine of the staff escaped after the hotel was engulfed in the fire.

“There was no fire alarm installed at the hotel. The hotel gallery and the corridor were smeared with soot,” the officer added.

“A fire fighter identified as Subhash Arya was also injured during the rescue operation,” The FIR said.

The Crime Branch team has seized hotel documents and the record book of reception to study the sequence of the tragedy. The hotel manager, Vikas, and general Manager, Rajinder – arrested on Wednesday — are being interrogated,” the officer said.

“A manhunt is on to nab Shardendu Goel,” he said.



Delhi government orders probe into hotel fire tragedy

Minister for Home and Urban Development for the national capital Satyendar Jain on Tuesday ordered a magisterial inquiry into the tragic blaze in a central Delhi hotel which devoured 17 lives, including that of a child.

The Minister, who was speaking to the media outside the hotel, said the building norms were violated by the hotel owner who had raised the hotel building to six floors against four floors allowed in the area. 

“Fire in Karol Bagh hotel. 17 casualties, two injured. Magistrate enquiry ordered. Visible violations of building bye laws, building constructed six stories including one temporary floor instead of permissible four floors. Ordered fire inspection of buildings in the area,” Jain tweeted.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also visited the spot where he remarked on the flouting of the building norms and said that an inquiry will be launched to find out whether the owner had a valid licence to run the hotel and the bar which it housed inside.

Due to the tragic incident, the Aam Aadmi Party cancelled a programme celebrating four years of its government in the state where popular singer Vishal Dadlani was to perform.

“Due to the tragic fire incident in Karol Bagh where several people have lost their lives, today’s Vishal Dadlani’s programme scheduled for this evening in Delhi stands cancelled. Our heartfelt condolences for the grieving families,” Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted.

Arpit Palace Hotel, where a fire broke out in the wee hours of the morning, comprises a basement, a ground floor and four other floors. At least 35 rooms were booked by members of one family, who were in the city for a special function.

Fire was reported on third and fourth floors but the blaze spiralled down as well. Only the basement and ground floors were not affected.

Three people jumped off from the blazing structure even as 25 fire tenders rushed to the spot after receiving a call at 4.30 a.m.





 Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoles Delhi hotel fire victims

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday condoled the deaths of 17 people who died after a fire broke out in a hotel here.

“Deeply saddened by the loss of lives due to a fire at Karol Bagh in Delhi. I convey my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover soon,” the Prime Minster said in a tweet.

Seventeen people, including a child, were killed and three were injured in the major fire that engulfed the six-storey Hotel Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh earlier on Tuesday.

Fire officials have rescued 35 people so far.



 Nine people dead and three others injured in Delhi hotel blaze

Nine people, including a woman and child were killed and three others injured in a major fire that broke out in a central Delhi hotel early on Tuesday, a fire official said.

At least 35 others were rescued from the six-storeyed building, while three jumped off the upper floors of the hotel in Karol Bagh to save their lives. 

The death toll could further rise. Most victims died of suffocation, Fire Chief Officer G.C. Mishra said.

A call was received at 4.30 a.m. from Arpit Palace Hotel and immediately 25 fire tenders were rushed to the spot, the officer at the Delhi Fire Department headquarters told IANS.

The hotel comprises of basement, ground floor and four other floors. At least 35 rooms were booked by one family who were in the city for a special function.

Fire was reported on third and fourth floor, but the blaze spiralled down as well. Only the basement and ground floor were not affected.

Most of the tragedies were reported between the second and the fourth floor. The fire has already been controlled and the cooling process was underway.

Fire fighters searched rooms and toilets to ensure that none was left trapped, Mishra said.

“When the fire tenders reached the spot, flames were leaping out of the building. Many people were still fast asleep at that time,” he said, adding that during the dousing process the nine bodies were discovered.