CBI probe belies UPA ministers claims

Written by Rajat Arora | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 17 2012, 09:36am hrs
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the coal block scandal has contradicted the claims made by UPA ministers that no block was allocated without the recommendation of the respective state governments and that the Centre did not favour any ineligible company.

The CBI probe throws up startling facts as out of five companies booked by the agency, four were not recommended by any state government for coal block allocation. Three firms AMR Iron and Steel, JAS Infrastructure and JLD Yavatmal Energy got the blocks exclusively on the recommendation of the central ministries power and coal. Another firm, Vini Iron and Steel, was not recommended by the respective state government (Jharkhand) when it first applied in 2006, but, subsequently, thr then chief minister, Madhu Koda, gave a favourable opinion on the firm in 2008.

Navabharat Power, the fifth company booked by the CBI, did have a favourable recommendation from the Orissa government.

The CBI has booked these five firms for misrepresenting facts and fudging balance sheets to get coal blocks allocated. In its five FIRs, the CBI has named 20 officials of these firms and unknown government officials who favoured these firms.

The UPA government, since day one, has been maintaining that the onus of allocating coal blocks to ineligible firms lay on state governments as they had a major say in allocation of these blocks.

However, the CBI probe tells a different tale. The three firms owned by mining baron Manoj Jayaswal promoted Abhijeet group JAS Infrastructure, JLD Yavatmal Energy and AMR Iron and Steel did not have necessary recommendations from the state governments when they first applied for coal blocks.In its FIRs, the CBI says Nagpur-based JLD Yavatmal Energy, which is jointly owned by Congress MP Vijay Darda and mining baron Manoj Jayaswal, and another company owned by Jayaswal-JAS Infrastructure were recommended by the power ministry. The state governments Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand did not recommend these companies.

But despite the recommendation of state government, JLD Yavatmal was allocated Fatehpur (east) coal block in Chhattisgarh. JAS Infrastructure got Mahugarhi coal block in Jharkhand.

Another Abhijeet Group company AMR Iron and Steel, in which Darda also has a share, also did not have any recommendation from the state government. The company at the time of applying for the coal block didn't have any recommendation from the Central ministry either, but was allocated the Bander coal block in Maharashtra by the screening committee after its representatives met the then minister of state for coal in 2008. According to sources, the coal ministry was aware about the company's ineligibility.

Vini Iron and Steel, said to be owned by a close aide of former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, also did not have any recommendation from the state government when it first applied for the coal block. However, the company was immediately allocated the Rajhara coal block in Jharkhand when Madhu Koda took over as the CM of the state. But, according to CBI sources, the state government, then headed by Koda, had a clear role in allocating the coal block to the ineligible company. The CBI has also booked unknown officials of coal ministry for alleged corruption for favouring the company and overlooking facts.

NavaBharat Power, now owned by the Essar Group, was the only company which had recommendations from the Orrisa government and also the Central ministries. The company was allocated Rampia and dipside Rampia coal blocks in Orrisa. But in its FIR against the company, the CBI has alleged,the promoters and shareholders of Navabharat sold their entire shareholdings in July 2010 to Essar Power and its subsidiary company at a profit of over R200 crore, after the allocation.

The CBI has booked the company of allegedly misrepresenting and concealing facts to qualify and then make wrongful gains in connivance with unidentified public servants.