Ore stolen from Belekeri port not traceable: CID

The CID, in its first charge-sheet filed before the Ankola court, has named Belekeri port conservator Mahesh Biliye as the number one accused in the case for conspiring with export firms to loot the iron ore seized by the forest department officers.
Others charge-sheeted are Salagaonkar Mining, Tungabhadra Minerals, Gimpex Ltd, Ramasubba Reddy, executive director, Tungabhadra Minerals, Ramachandra Vasu Nayak, senior manager, Salagaonkar Minerals, K Chandran, supervisor, Gimpex Ltd.
Salagaonkar Mining stole and exported 50,250.610 MT of iron ore; its sister company, Tungabhadra Minerals, looted and sold 23,504 MT of iron ore to Salagaonkar Mining, of which 15,416.240 MT were exported. Gimpex Ltd stole and exported 31,884.850 MT of iron ore. Totally, 1,05,639.76 MT of seized ore were stolen, of which 97,551.700 MT were exported from Belekeri port, thereby causing a loss of Rs 44,31,20,630.78 to the government. The loss has been calculated based on the value of the illegally exported iron ore.

The forest department had filed the complaint regarding the theft of the five lakh MT iron ore at Belekeri port on June 8. The case was later transferred to the CID. Missing of iron ore from Belekeri port triggered a heated debate in the State Legislature.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (CID) K S R Charan Reddy, who investigated the case, told this paper that just about 20 per cent of the investigation into the iron theft case had been completed. The iron ore was in the custody of the port and it was the duty of the port conservator to ensure its safety, he said. “The stevedores and the exporters in connivance with the port conservator have done the illegal export. There are sufficient evidences to prove the charges. The conservator has given clearance in writing for the ore to be shipped out,” he said.

Is just one conservator involved in the crime? “There may be many. But we have to go by the evidence. His boss might have given him oral instructions. But where is the proof? Tungabhadra company, in which the State government has stakes, has sold iron ore to Salaganokar company. This transaction is illegal.”

Reddy said lakhs of tonnes of iron ore were dumped at the port. Before reaching here, the ore passes through many checkposts. But once it reaches the port, it becomes the responsibility of the port officials to ensure that only legal ore is exported. Unless the port officials give permission, it can’t be loaded onto a jetty or a ship, he added.

When his attention was drawn to reports that the ore,  which left the port was being stored in the State itself, the officer said, “It could be traced only in the form of money which has gone to the companies.”

Customs role
Reddy said the customs department’s responsibility was to ensure no prohibited items are exported, and to collect duty on export items. “The entire port has just one gate. It should have had more security personnel in case it required. Anyhow, this is an ideal place for the mines and geology department to keep a check on ore meant for export,” he said.

Regarding the delay in filing the chargesheet, Reddy said documents of 52 companies had to be verified. “We have to check the addresses of the companies. Half of the addresses we found in the records were incorrect. So, it took time to investigate,” he said.

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