The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has closed a corruption case pertaining to supply of low quality Indonesian coal to NTPC Ltd and NTPC-SAIL Power Corporation Ltd (NSPCL) by Indore-based Bhatia International Ltd (now known as Asian Natural Resources India Ltd) resulting in losses of Rs 116.07 crore, as the probe agency was not able to get “sufficient” evidence “for prosecuting the accused persons in a court of law”.
The CBI in its closure report said “the disputed coal (supplied from 2011 to 2013) has already been consumed by NTPC Ltd, and the samples of the same were not retained at the NTPC laboratory” for CBI to conduct tests. It also said that the disputed coal samples collected by the customs authority in this case has been lying with them “for the past one and a half years, and during this period, certain amount of moisture could have affected the samples and in turn, affect the test results and hence it is difficult to establish that the specific coal supplied to NTPC, was substandard”.
Interestingly, while the CBI has closed the case, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) which first unearthed the alleged over-valuation of low quality Indonesian coal imports scam pegged at Rs 29,000 crore says that its probe against Bhatia International and 40 other prominent coal importers including a few firms of the Adani Group, Essar Group and the Anil Ambani Group is still on.
The DRI has alleged that several coal traders directly imported Indonesian coal to Indian ports by allegedly routing the invoices “through one or more related /associated intermediary firms based abroad” after artificially inflating its value. To justify the inflated price, “manipulated test reports” of the quality of coal was submitted to public sector units and Indian Customs. According to the DRI, this coal was then supplied to public sector coal-based thermal power generation companies in India at the “artificially inflated import price and the inflated price is remitted from India to the intermediary firms abroad which remit only the actual price to the suppliers of the Indonesian coal and the balance is siphoned off elsewhere”.
The closure of the CBI case against Bhatia International, NTPC Ltd and NSPCL assumes significance as the CBI is probing two similar cases against Coastal Energy Pvt Ltd and Knowledge Infrastructure Systems Pvt Ltd after DRI referred these cases for investigation under Prevention of Corruption Act.
While the CBI in its closure report has recommended banning of Bhatia International from government supplies and disciplinary action against a few employees of NTPC, it has said that “no evidence with regard to receiving of any pecuniary advantage by the public servants has come to light out of the aforesaid transactions”. The CBI investigation has also found that most of the mines in Indonesia that had tie-ups with Bhatia International for supply of coal have shut down.
In 2013, CBI registered two FIRs against Bhatia International, its Singapore firm Bhatia International Pte Limited and a few officials of NTPC Ltd and NSPCL. Emails to Bhatia International and NTPC Ltd did not elicit any response.