Shyam Bihari Agrawal, booked by CBI on Friday in the ‘Rail Neer’ scandal, had a sudden rise in his fortunes with a virtual monopoly over railway catering to build a Rs 500 crore business empire in just over a decade.
Agarwal, from whose New Friends Colony House in South Delhi CBI sleuths recovered Rs 27 crore in cash during a raid on Friday, runs the chain of Comesum restaurants at railway stations across India. He reportedly holds about 70% of pantry car business in Indian Railways through his parent company RK Associates & Hoteliers and several other front companies.
CBI sources on Saturday said that Agrawal, who hails from Chhattisgarh, gets almost all the contracts in the premium trains, including Rajdhani and Shatabdi express besides other important trains.
Sources said he made the fortune after getting small catering contracts in railways with the help of some senior politicians and bureaucrats. He was also said to be close to two former railway ministers and managed to get big contracts for catering.
The website of his company, R K Associates & Hoteliers Pvt Ltd, with its office at Sahi Hospital Road, Jangpura Bhogal, in Delhi, states that “we are the major player in railway catering for the past two decades. We are providing the complete range of catering services for approximately 150 trains like Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express and mail/ Express trains through our state of art network of various base kitchens cum kiosks spread over all directions in the country and running in the name and style of ‘Meals on Wheels’.
When we contacted his office in Jangpura, an employee said, “Agrawal was not available for comments.”
Sources said Agarwal had several companies, four of which were named by CBI in its FIR. Besides he has many front companies which he controls by proxy.
“Whenever there is a tender in railways for catering, he opens a new company with different set of Directors. Through his contacts, he gets the contract,” said an official.
Sources said CBI and Income Tax Department are likely to probe the recovery of Rs 27 crore in cash from his house.
CBI had named RK Associates Pvt Ltd, Satyam Caterers Pvt Ltd, Ambuj Hotel and Real Estate, PK Associates Pvt Ltd, Sunsine Pvt Ltd, Brandavan Food Product and Food World on Friday alongwith two former officials of North Railway – former Chief Commercial Managers M S Chalia and Sandeep Silas. Silas, a 1983 batch Indian Railway Service officer, had earlier served as private secretary to former union ministers Oscar Fernandes and Ambika Soni.