Jindal firms bribed MoS to get coal blocks: CBI

This is the first time a Minister of State has been named in the scam.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi | Published: June 11, 2013 7:51 pm

IN A fresh blow to the Congress in the coal blocks allotment scandal,the CBI Tuesday accused party MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal’s companies of bribing the then minister of state for coal Dasari Narayana Rao and misrepresenting information to obtain coal blocks.

In a new FIR registered in the case Tuesday,the agency alleged that Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd were allotted the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand in January 2008 in return for which another Jindal firm,New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd,invested Rs 2.25 crore in Sowbhagya Media Ltd,partially owned by Rao,in December 2008.

The FIR accuses Jindal and Rao of cheating and criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The agency now plans to jointly question Jindal and Rao,who are the latest Congress leaders to be named in a CBI FIR in the scandal after Congress MP from Maharashtra,Vijay Darda,and his MLA-brother Rajendra Darda.

Soon after registering a case,the CBI carried out searches at 19 locations including in Delhi,Hyderabad and Sonepat. Jindal’s house on Prithviraj Road in Delhi was also searched but since he was abroad,the agency sealed some almirahs and vaults as Jindal has not authorised anyone to operate them.

The agency said that it will also summon screening committee members who approved the coal blocks allotment,officers said.

“JSPL,as a law abiding company,is governed by a strong ethical code of conduct. This is an ongoing CBI investigation into coal block allocation. At this stage of investigation,JSPL is committed to fully cooperate with CBI,” Manu Kapoor,head of external affairs at JSPL,said in an email statement.

The CBI has alleged that after the coal block was allotted,Gagan Sponge transferred Rs 2.25 crore to Jindal Realty which was then moved to New Delhi Exim. The money was allegedly used to buy shares of Sowbhagya Media at Rs 100 per share when the market price was Rs 28. CBI investigators alleged that this was in return for Rao,as MoS Coal,influencing the screening committee to favour JSPL and Gagan Sponge.

Rao,a former Rajya Sabha MP,controls 59 percent of Sowbhagya Media through another company called Siri Media of which he owns 80 per cent,the CBI has alleged. Both firms are based in Hyderabad. Rao was MoS coal in 2004-06 and 2006-08. He had been questioned by the CBI in connection with the coal blocks allotted to Darda’s companies.

The CBI has also alleged that JSPL applied for coal blocks in January 2007 and misrepresented facts before the screening committee on three parameters. “JSPL and Gagan claimed that they had sufficient land to build the power plants but it was found to be a false claim while they also painted a rosy picture regarding water supply. Jindal also gave false representation regarding his previous allocation and its development,which is considered to be an important criteria for allocating coal blocks,” a senior CBI officer said.

The CBI will also probe other coal blocks at Gare Palma in Chhattisgarh and Jitpur in Jharkhand which were given to JSPL in 2006-09. While the coal block in Gare Palma is being developed by Jindal with Nalwa Sponge Iron Ltd,the Jharkhand block is being developed by Jindal alone.

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