The Central Bureau of Investigation Tuesday filed its first set of cases in the coal blocks allotment scandal,accusing Congress MP Vijay Darda and his brother Rajendra Darda,who is a minister in Maharashtra,among others,of criminal conspiracy,cheating and misrepresentation of facts.
The FIRs registered by the agency named five companies which were allotted six coal blocks,and 25 people who are either promoters,directors or shareholders in these firms. Investigators also conducted searches at 30 locations in 11 cities,including Delhi,Mumbai,Kolkata,Patna,Hyderabad,Dhanbad and Nagpur,soon after the FIRs were registered.
The CBI has also booked unnamed public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act,accusing them of not exercising due diligence while allotting the coal blocks. The cases were filed after a three-month investigation following the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) registered on the directions of the Central Vigilance Commission in June.
Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd,one of the five firms named in the FIR,is believed to be linked to former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda. Another firm,Nav Bharat Power Pvt Ltd,is suspected to have links with the family of a BJP politician,CBI officers said.
The CBI FIR against JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd the company of the Dardas which is named after their father and Congress leader Jawahar Lal Darda alleges that the company misrepresented facts and furnished false information in connection with coal blocks allotted in Fatehpur East in Chhattisgarh in January 2008.
Vijay Darda and another shareholder in his company,mining baron Manoj Jayaswal,are also linked to two other companies that are named in the FIRs: JAS Infrastructure Capital Ltd and AMR Iron and Steels Pvt Ltd.
It is alleged that Darda owned 7 per cent of AMR along with Manoj Jayasawal,Arvind Kumar Jayaswal and Ramesh Jayaswal,who have also been named in the FIR against AMR Iron.
Darda,however,denied the allegations. My association with these firms ended in 2009. I have not used my position to influence any allocation of coal blocks, he said.
The CBI has alleged that Vini Iron made false claims about its net worth and said it was supported by a consortium of 15 companies,a claim later found to be false. The ownership pattern of Vini Iron also changed soon after it applied for coal blocks and was allotted captive blocks in North Rajhara in Jharkhand on November 20,2008.
Vaibhav Tulsyan,who is named as one of the directors of Vini Iron,told The Indian Express that he was associated with the company before the coal blocks were allotted. We sold the company in May 2008 to Vijay Joshi,an associate of former CM Madhu Koda,while the coal blocks were allocated later. We have nothing to do with the coal blocks, Tulsyan said.
The CBI has also alleged that the promoters of some of these companies sold their stakes in an irregular manner after the coal blocks were allotted. Nav Bharat,the FIR alleges,furnished false information about its net worth and later sold a majority stake to Essar Power in 2010 at an inflated price.
Darda,who also runs the media group Lokmat,belongs to Nagpur. Darda and Manoj Jayaswal are known to be close friends,with Jayaswal having broken away from his father Basant Lal Shaw,patriarch of the NECO Group of Industries.
Jayaswal was in the spotlight in 2010 with his little known Abhijeet Group signing a deal with Chinas Dongfang Electrical Corporation for supply of equipment worth $2.5 billion. More recently,he made headlines for buying a Rs 120-crore chartered plane. His group is building two power plants,one in Jharkhand and the other in Bihar,and has completed the third in Nagpurs MIHAN project. It hopes to produce 5,000 MW of power in all by 2014.
In 2007,Darda and Abhijeet Group had joined hands to set up a 1,215 MW Jawaharlal Darda Mega Power Project in Yavatmal district. The state government had also issued a letter of support to JLD Yavatmal Energy Limited for the project. The coal-based thermal power project was expected to be operational by 2010. Darda had then promised to provide free power to marginal farmers in the district for five years. The project never took off. – with inputs from VIVEK DESHPANDE in NAGPUR