The owner of a hotel in Delhi's Karol Bagh that caught fire earlier this week was arrested on Saturday night. Rakesh Goel had been on the run since the fire at Hotel Arpit killed 17 people on February 12. He was arrested by the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police.
The police acted on a tip off that Mr Goel was travelling from Qatar by Indigo flight 6E 1702. Immigration officials were alerted and a lookout notice had already been released. "He was detained on arrival and handed over to the police after brief questioning," senior police officer, Rajesh Deo told NDTV. Mr Goel will be produced in court today.
"Rakesh Goel had gone to attend a wedding at Doha. A lookout notice for his brother, Shardendu Goel, who is absconding has also been issued. The hotel licence is in Shardendu's name but the owner is his elder brother Rakesh," said Mr Deo.
This is the third arrest in the hotel fire case. Earlier, the general manager, Rajender Kumar and manager, Vikas Kumar Takkal were arrested for culpable homicide, the police said.
As part of the probe, sources say, investigators are now looking into the possibility of a deliberate attempt at aggravating the fire inside the hotel to settle an insurance claim by the owner. "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 reporters.
The investigating team recreated the scene and matched the sequence and evidences with the timings of the fire incident. They also interrogated Rajender Kumar and Vikas Kumar Takkal about theirs activities," said senior officer of the Crime Branch, Rajiv Ranjan.
Intensifying its drive against hotels that do not adhere to fire safety rules, the Delhi government has cancelled safety certificates of 27 establishments. In the last three days, the fire department has cancelled no objection certificates given to 57 hotels and ordered them shut.