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ED coal case on former minister and MP

Dasari Narayana Rao (left), Naveen Jindal

New Delhi, May 5 (PTI): The Enforcement Directorate has slapped money-laundering charges on former minister of state in the coal ministry Dasari Narayana Rao and Congress MP Naveen Jindal in connection with its probe into the coal block allocation case.

The agency, which has registered an FIR under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act after taking cognisance of nearly one-and-a-half-dozen CBI complaints, has also named members and officials of a government-constituted, multi-member screening committee.

Others include Ms Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd, Ms Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL), Ms Jindal Realty Pvt Ltd, Ms New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd, Ms Sowbhagya Media Ltd, besides unknown persons.

The agency, according to sources, framed the charges after it found multi-layered transactions between the firms owned by Jindal and Rao’s firms based in Hyderabad, and routing of “illegal money” for alleged favours given for allocation of blocks to Jindal in Jharkhand in 2008.

Rao, who has been a film director and producer, was minister between 2004 and 2006 and in his second term from 2006 to 2008.

The ED has, till now, registered cases against all those booked by the CBI under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The other firms against which cases have been registered include Castron Technologies Ltd, Jharkhand Ispat Private Limited, Pushp Steel and Mining Pvt Ltd, RSPL, Grace Industries, Jharkhand Ispat, Green Infrastructure, Hindalco, BLA Industries and Nav Bharat Power Private Limited.

The directorate, according to the sources, will investigate if these firms laundered illegal money and generated “proceeds of crime” in the entire process of coal allocation. The Supreme Court is monitoring the probe by both agencies.

According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, an estimated loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore was caused to the national exchequer in the coal allocation controversy.

Rao, 66, today said the final decision on any ministry-related work was taken by cabinet ministers Shibu Soren and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who held the portfolio at different times.

Rao and Soren have both been accused by former coal secretary P.C. Parakh of scuttling reforms in the ministry. “His allegation is when he proposed the bidding (for coal block allocations), I refused itů. Who am I not to cooperate?” Rao said today, adding that there were certain “practical problems” in introducing new things in the ministry.

The former Rajya Sabha member also said the Prime Minister could have removed him had he taken any wrong decision. “Suppose if I am wrong, the Prime Minister could have thrown me away,” he said. “Why did he not do it?”

No reaction was available from Jindal.

Rao was questioned by the CBI late last month about the allocation of the Talabira-II coal block in Odisha to Hindalco, an Aditya Birla Group company, despite the screening committee giving it to the public sector undertaking Neyveli Lignite Limited.

Parakh, who retired as coal secretary in December 2005, was last week questioned by the CBI in connection with the case.

The CBI had last year registered a case against Parakh, Kumar Mangalam Birla and unnamed officials of Hindalco and the coal ministry. Birla and Hindalco have denied allegations of irregularities.