Widening the probe into Rs1,85,000-crore coal scam, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) will soon file the First Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) to investigate charges of alleged money laundering by the companies under scanner. Sources said the ED swung into action after it received missive last week from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is probing the coal blocks allocated to private companies by the UPA government, allegedly causing huge financial losses to the government exchequer.
“The ED will look into the books of companies under CBI scanner to probe the money laundering charges. As of now, CBI is examining nine companies which allegedly suppressed facts while applying for the coal blocks. Taking a cue from the CBI investigation, Coal Ministry has already issued ‘show cause’ notices to these companies to respond to the allegation levelled against them,” sources said.
It is learnt that the ED received the case files of companies that include Vini Iron and Steel, Vikash metals and Powers, Grace Industries, Green Infrastructure, JLD Yavatmal Energy, Kamal Sponge Steel & Power, JAS Infrastructure Capital, AMR Iron and Steel and Nav Bharat Power. “These companies allegedly gave false information about their organisation’s structure and deliberately hid the financial worth of the company to mislead the authorities. The suspicious tie-up of these companies with other players will also be looked into to ascertain whether money was laundered in the process,” sources said.
Amid ongoing CBI investigation in coal-gate, the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) in September had recommended de-allocation of 12 coal blocks that were allocated to private companies. The IMG, chaired by additional secretary of Coal Ministry, Zohra Chatterjee, had also recommended encashment of bank guarantee of 13 firms, including Arcellor Mittal and Jayaswal Neco Ltd.
Sources said the companies questioned by the CBI sleuths have shifted the blame on the ministry. The companies claimed that they followed the regulations set by the Coal Ministry and the concerned state government. However, they have not been able to respond to queries on change of ownership and charges of suppressing the facts. “The ED investigation in all nine companies will widen the probe and it will look into the change in ownership immediately after the coal blocks’ allocation which prima-facie indicates criminal conspiracy,” sources said.
Directors of one such company, Nav Bharat Power, were questioned by the CBI on November 7. The CBI in its First Information Report had accused the company for misrepresentation of facts during the allocation of the coal blocks. The Hyderabad-based company was allocated two coal blocks in IB Valley, Odisha, in January 2008. Sources said the ED will look into the deal that the company promoters managed to seal by allegedly selling their stakes in the company after the coal blocks were allocated.
Another company, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Limited, is accused of making false claims and hiding the facts. Incorporated in 2004 with a paid-up capital of over Rs18 lakh, Vini signed an MoU worth Rs880 crore with Jharkhand government to set up integrated steel plant. The ED will also look into the allegation levelled against the former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda for facilitating the deal which helped the company to enlarge its portfolio at the cost of public exchequer.
- Sunday Standard