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Rabri Devi, the wife of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, today skipped her scheduled appearance before the Enforcement Directorate for the fifth time in connection with a money-laundering probe in the railway hotels allotment case, officials sources said. The former Bihar chief minister has now been summoned to appear on November 7 before the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case, they said. The agency had registered a case against Lalu Prasad, his family members and others under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) sometime back. Earlier this week, Rabri's son and former Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav had skipped appearing before the ED and was summoned on October 31. While Tejashwi has been once grilled by the ED for over nine hours in connection with the case, Rabri has skipped the ED summonses the fifth time today. They said Rabri had informed the agency earlier about her ill-health and the 'Chhath Pooja' as the reason for her non- appearance. In July, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered an FIR and conducted multiple searches on the properties of Lalu Prasad, who is also a former Bihar chief minister, and others. The CBI FIR has alleged that Lalu Prasad during his tenure as the railway minister handed over the maintenance of two Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) hotels to a company in 2004 after receiving a bribe in the form of a prime plot of land in Patna through a 'benami' company owned by Sarla Gupta, wife of Prem Chand Gupta, a former Union minister. The ED had registered a criminal case against his family members and others under the PMLA, based on the CBI FIR. The CBI also recently recorded the statements of Tejashwi and Lalu Prasad in this case. The ED is investigating the alleged "proceeds of crime" generated by the accused, purportedly through shell companies, according to officials. Others named in the CBI FIR include Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar (both directors of Sujata Hotels), Delight Marketing company, now known as Lara Projects, and the then IRCTC managing director P K Goel. The CBI FIR was registered on July 5 in connection with favours allegedly extended to Sujata Hotels in awarding a contract for the upkeep of the hotels in Ranchi and Puri and receiving premium land as 'quid pro quo'.
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