Belekeri scam: SC directs CBI to file FIRs against Adani, JSW

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 8 2012, 06:35am hrs
The Supreme Court on Friday directed a CBI probe into the illegal extraction, transport and export of 50.7 lakh tonne of iron ore from Karnataka's Belekeri port operated by Adani Enterprise between January 2009 and May 2010. It also asked the CBI to probe the role played by the Adani Group and other companies in the Belekeri export scam.

A special forest bench headed by justice Aftab Alam while accepting the report of Central Empowered Committee (CEC) asked the CBI to investigate all aspects of the illegalities associated with raising, transportation, sale and purchase, storage and disposal of about 33.98 lakh tonne of iron ore exported from January 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010, by four exporters ILC Industries (9.68 lakh tonnes), Dream Logistics Company India (9.16 lakh tonnes), SB Logistics (7.74 lakh tonnes) and Shree Mallikarjuna Shipping (7.23 lakh tonnes) from Belekeri port and consequent receipt/transfer of money within and outside the country. Four exporters account for nearly a half of these volumes.

The apex court appointed environmental panel in its report on Thursday had recommended a CBI probe into the brazen flouting of rules in transportation of 50 lakh tonnes of illegally mined iron ore from Bellary district to Belekeri port, some 400 km away, and their surreptitious export despite the ore being seized by the forest department. It also asked the investigative agency to submit a preliminary report of the probe into illegal export of iron ore within six weeks. It also gave a free hand to the CBI to lodge as many FIRs it felt necessary.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the agency to look into the land deals between a JSW subsidiary and a close relative of former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and donations made by the company for undue mineral rights. The court also directed that no authority or court will entertain any plea arriving out of its order for a CBI probe.

Slamming the Karnataka government for looking the other way when iron ore in the state was being illegally mined, transported and exported, the apex court said that it could not be believed that no one in the government knew about it.

It is a case of fence eating the grass, it observed.

Justice Alam said: Can anyone imagine that the state authority, right from bottom to top was not aware of the illegal mining of iron ore to the tune of 50.7 lakh tonnes, its transportation and export. The state machinery, instead of governing, was involved in all these illegalities.

Transportation of such a huge quantity of iron ore involving more than 5 lakh truck trips could not have been possible without the active connivance of the concerned officers and other public servants, the CEC report stated. CEC also said that the Karnataka forest department had seized the entire stock of iron ore lying in Belekeri port on March 20, 2010 but the majority has substantially been illegally exported. The probe carried out so far by the state of Karnataka through the CID does not inspire confidence.

Adani Enterprises said it was one of the four parties/stevedores/port service providers at the Belekeri port to various exporters. As a port service operator, the companys responsibility was limited to storing and load cargo from the stack area onto the barges and then into the mother vessel, based on instructions of exporters and orders passed by Customs Authorities, the company said.

It also clarifed that it does not have any interest direct or indirect in iron ore mining. It has neither owned nor operated any iron ore mine nor has undertaken nor was involved in any mining activity in Karnataka or in any other part of the country.

The company stated that all the activities were done on behalf of the exporters under the supervision and clearance of customs and port authorities. It was the responsibility of the miners/traders/exporters to obtain the mandatory clearances/permissions/permits for transportation of iron ore from mines to the port. The company is a mere service provider and not in a position to check mandatory clearances/permissions/permits as it does not have the authority to do so.

Case file

* CBI asked to probe into the role played by the Adani Group, other cos in the Belekeri export scam

* The agency to submit a preliminary report of the probe within six weeks

* CBI given a free hand to lodge as many FIRs it felt necessary