After coal, CBI trains guns on offshore mining

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 25 2012, 08:27am hrs
After filing a series of cases in the coal block allocation scam, the CBI has now been tasked with unearthing alleged irregularities in the allocation of offshore mining licenses to private firms.

The CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry into allocation of 62 off-shore mineral blocks in the sea bed of of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, the first-ever attempt to explore untapped mineral wealth worth thousands of crore.

The offshore blocks were allocated to several companies last year.

A preliminary inquiry has been registered by the agency in connection with the alleged favours extended to the companies by the unknown officials of the Indian Bureau of Mines while awarding licenses for exploring minerals in the sea bed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. This could be another mega scam, said a CBI officer.

According to sources, five beneficiaries companies owned by the family members of an Indian Revenue Service officer are under the agency's scanner as the companies got around 28 blocks out of 62 blocks despite being illegible.

The final award of licences had been put on hold after the aggrieved parties reached Bombay and Andhra Pradesh high courts seeking their cancellation.

In March last year, the government in an attempt to explore off-shore mineral wealth had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28, nearly half, were bagged by companies owned by family members of the former Enforcement Directorate official who had also served in mines ministry.

According to sources, the four companies, with the same central Delhi address, under the CBI scanner are owned by the son and brother of the officer.

The CBI will also be probing the role of officials of ministry of mines and Indian Bureau of Mines. The sources said that each block, measuring about 800 sq km, is estimated to have huge unexplored mineral wealth in the seabed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.