Sept. 4: The CBI today searched 30 locations in the country and filed cases against five companies for securing coal blocks by fudging their net worth and filing false information.
One of the companies has been linked to a Congress Rajya Sabha MP, and the coal blocks for at least two allottees searched are located in the Opposition-ruled Chhattisgarh and Odisha. (See chart)
PTI quoted sources as saying the name of Congress MP Vijay Darda, associated with Yavatmal Energy Ltd, figured in a first information report but the official CBI statement did not mention any names. The news agency said Darda’s brother Rajendra, a minister in Maharashtra, has also been named in the FIR.
The CBI “has registered five separate cases against certain private companies, their directors and unknown public servants”, the agency said in the statement.
“The cases have been registered in connection with the allegations related to getting coal blocks allocated on the basis of misrepresentations and false claims in the applications, presentations and connivance/lack of due diligence on part of public servants,” it added.
The searches were carried out in Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Hyderabad, Dhanbad and Nagpur. “Promoters of some of these companies have allegedly sold their stakes in an irregular manner after allocation of coal blocks,” the agency said in the release.
The four other companies are JAS Infrastructure Capital, AMR Iron and Steel, Navbharat Power and Vini Iron and Steel Udyog.
The searches and the cases came in the middle of controversy over the CAG report on the coal block allocation. However, CBI sources said the action has nothing to do with CAG report and has been in the pipeline for quite some time.
Two of the five companies are linked to the Nagpur-based Abhijeet Group, with which MP and chairman of the Lokmat group of newspapers, Vijay Darda, was associated.
JAS Infrastructure and Power is a subsidiary of Abhijeet Group headed by Manoj Jayaswal. JLD Yavatmal Energy is a company in which Abhijeet Group partnered with the Darda group to set up a 1,350-MW power project in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district.
Darda told a TV channel that in 2009 he ended his association with the firm because it dropped its plans to set up a power plant in Yavatmal, the district he belongs to. He has also denied that he used his position as an MP to help companies to get coalfields. “I will quit politics if charges against me are proved,” he had said.
Vaibhav Tulsyan, whose office and home were searched in Dhanbad for his alleged association with Vini Iron and Steel, claimed he had sold the company to a close aide of the then Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, an Independent who was then supported by the Congress.
“I sold the company five months before coal block allocations. My only fault was that I was an applicant for coal blocks. Because of the Naxalite problem, we were not able to run the company. When Vijay Joshi, who was a close aide of former chief minister Madhu Koda, approached us with a good offer, we sold the company to him. At the time coal block allocation, the company was already with Joshi,” Tulsyan said.
Both the former chief minister and Joshi are in jail now.
CBI sources said the irregularities took place at the screening level and some officials are under the agency’s scanner.
The sources listed some of the charges the agency is investigating:
Some companies allegedly signed memoranda of understanding for small periods with a number of companies and added their equity to give an impression of sound financial status while applying for coal blocks;
One company is being investigated on the charge of selling its controlling stake at a high price to a power firm after getting the coal blocks;
One company allegedly added loans from various banks to its net worth to bag coal blocks;
Another allegedly made false claims that it had tied up with 15 companies to enhance its net worth.
Keeping in mind that Opposition-ruled states had also made recommendations, the Centre seems to be waiting for more revelations.
“The BJP wants the government to cancel all the blocks without proper examination to ensure the affected parties get relief in the court…. We hope the CBI will look into other cases, too. We want all wrongdoers punished,” Union coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said.
“We will not stop at cancellation of coal blocks but send the wrongdoers to jail. The policy devised by the Prime Minister was most effective and transparent. Some officials might have violated rules and private players misrepresented facts to get blocks. The CBI should do a thorough investigation.”