Bhubaneswar/Raipur, Nov. 20: The CBI is tracking leads to the cash-on-disc scandal in both Chhattisgarh and Orissa, home to the alleged key player Dilip Singh Judeo and the frequently mentioned Naveen Patnaik.
Putting all mining deals between Orissa and foreign companies under the scanner, a team of state CBI officials has already examined files relating to reconnaissance permits sought by mining firms.
The sleuths also visited the directorate of mines here early this week and asked director Sashadhar Sahoo if a person named Rahul was listed in the applications for a reconnaissance permit.
Their hour-long scrutiny, however, drew a blank, sources said. The sleuths are likely to revisit the directorate for more questioning, they added.
Asked about the probe, Sahoo said “No comment”, reflecting directorate officials’ refusal to speak in the absence of state steel and mines minister A.U. Singhdeo, who is in London.
The inquiry was prompted by frequent references to chief minister Patnaik in the video CD that purportedly shows Rahul, apparently the representative of an Australia-based mining company, handing cash to Judeo, the former Union minister of state for environment, in the presence of his personal assistant Natwar Rateria.
Rateria is heard telling Rahul on the CD: “Orissa mein... apna kaafi command hai.... Nau hazaar crore ki relief Naveen Patnaik ko apne mantralay ke project se…. Us se kuch bhi karva sakte hain (We have good influence in Orissa. Our ministry gave the Naveen Patnaik government relief worth Rs 9,000 crore. We can make him do anything).”
Later, Rahul says: “Usko (apparently Patnaik) thoda sa milke... apan ko thoda kaam aage badhana hain... (I need to meet him to move my work forward).”
According to sources, the sleuths found that only AMIL Mining India Pvt Ltd has been granted a permit for diamond exploration though the Centre has approved grant of 13 reconnaissance permits to seven companies, including De Beers and ACC Rio Tinto for the state’s western districts.
So far, 86 applications for the permits are pending with the state government.
Mining department officials said a reconnaissance permit is granted, usually for three years, for aerial prospecting, which excludes pitting, trenching or sub-surface excavation. No prior site clearance, including public hearing, is required. Site clearance, however, has to be obtained from the Union ministry of environment and forest, on the state pollution control board’s recommendation, for grant of mining lease, which generally takes at least eight years. No mining lease has been given under the present regime, officials said.
Two CBI inspectors from Bhopal arrived in Raipur yesterday to scout political circles for Rateria. Both Rateria and Rahul are absconding since the scandal broke on Sunday.
The sleuths, however, have not met with success as Chhattisgarh BJP leaders have turned tightlipped. But some hinted that Rateria might be in his hometown of Raigarh, about 250 km from the state capital of Raipur and close to Judeo’s native Jashpurnagar. Rateria’s family in Gurgaon, however, reportedly told the bureau yesterday he would be in Raipur.
With a pre-Assembly poll deadline for submitting the report, the sleuths are also searching for a fourth person, said to be present in the five-star hotel room (no. 822) in Delhi where the money purportedly exchanged hands.