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Delays dog Koda graft trial

Probe flounders as accused roam free; CBI, ED, Vigilance left pushing paper

Ranchi, June 9: Absconding co-accused, various probe agencies and an intricate money trail is holding up investigations against, and trial of, Madhu Koda.

The former chief minister has been in jail for over two and half years. He has four cases of corruption, worth over Rs 2,000 crore against him.

While he has been granted bail in one of two cases being investigated by the CBI, he is also being probed by Vigilance Bureau and Enforcement Directorate for questionable poll funds and money laundering.

The CBI, which is investigating two cases of graft — disproportionate assets and scam in rural electrification against Koda (see chart), has realised that a trial in its special court is now far away. Hence, it is now thinking of splitting the cases to hold a separate trial if the former chief minister’s close confidant and co-accused Sanjay Chaudhary does not submit to the process of law.

Even then, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon — so much for a Supreme Court directive asking all courts to expedite trials in corruption cases.

According to sources, the CBI submitted a chargesheet against Koda and two of his associates, Vinod Sinha and Chaudhary, in 2010. They have been accused of receiving Rs 13 crore bribe for recommending land allotment to a private company, Mumbai-based Core Steel Industries Ltd, for iron ore mining.

The charges are under Section 13(1) (d) of P C Act for accepting illegal gratification and abuse of office. The next date of hearing is June 15.

“We have supplied police papers to Koda and Sinha but Chaudhary is still absconding, holding up the legal process,” said a CBI officer.

He pointed out that efforts to extradite Chaudhary from Dubai were on since November 2011. All papers were sent to UAE, but soon the agency received a request that these be translated in Arabic.

“We have done that, too. Now, if the extradition does not happen soon, then we will request the court to split the case and frame charges. Under the law, trial can begin only when the court frames the charges,” he said.

But, the CBI also needs to investigate Koda and Co. for showing undue favours to other firms. “This requires separate investigation and subsequently, if we get corroborative evidence, we may have to file several supplementary chargesheets in future,” the officer explained.

The CBI, he added, would also file a separate chargesheet against Koda for owning disproportionate assets. The Vigilance Bureau had filed a chargesheet, but that was before CBI took over the case in 2010.

In case of the Mumbai company though, investigations are complete. Hence the idea of a separate trial.

There is, however, yet another hurdle. The case against Koda and Co. had been launched after raids by income tax authorities at 170 places in 2009. “Original documents, like bank account papers, records of transactions involving several individuals and companies, seized during the raids, are still with the IT department. This is hampering our investigations and delaying trial,” the CBI officer added.

Investigating agencies have also failed to get to as many as seven co-accused. One of them, Anil Bastawade, a conduit allegedly used by Koda to channel funds and against whom an Enforcement Directorate arrest warrant is pending, was traced by a television news channel to Indonesia.

“Apart from Bastawade, the six others who are yet to submit to the process of law are Rohitas Krishnan, Saubhik Chattopadhyay, Manoj Kumar Sinha, A.A. Bafna, Sanjay Chaudhary and Dhananjay Chaudhary,” said the directorate’s lawyer S.R. Das.

Those who have surrendered in the case include Koda, Vinod Sinha, Vikas Sinha, Vijay Joshi, Manoj Punamiya and Arvind Vyas. Chargesheets against them have been filed. “But the trial to establish the money trail out of the country can’t begun unless all the accused appear in court,” he said.