Coal scam stings Naveen

Coal scam stings Naveen

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) may question Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik regarding allocation of coal blocks to Aditya Birla group’s Hindalco.

CBI officials, however, said a decision to this effect is yet to be taken. They said Patnaik could be questioned if there was a need to know why he recommended Hindalco for the coal blocks.

 Sources said Patnaik had recommended a “re-look” into the 25th screening committee’s decision to deny coal blocks to Hindalco in 2005.

Former coal secretary P C Parakh kicked up a political storm with his comment that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should also be booked since it was he who finally decided to reverse the committee’s decision and allot coal blocks to Hindalco.

CBI sources said the agency would question Birla and Parakh, but it could take some time as it first wanted to examine documents to gather material evidence.

The agency named people in the FIR on the basis of prima facie evidence, they said.
CBI Director Ranjit Sinha said the case was being monitored by the Supreme Court. All details will be provided in a status report, to be filed later this month. “We registered the FIR on the basis of available material during preliminary enquiry. Further evidence would be gathered during further probe,” he said.

V Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, said the government had nothing to hide. The coal blocks were allotted to public and private sector companies on the basis of recommendations of states. “We have made it very clear that the allocations were made to public sector undertakings and also some private companies on recommendations of state governments,” he said.

Narayanasamy, who is in charge of the Ministry of Personnel, which handles the investigating agency, said the committee comprised chief secretaries of the states where coal blocks were available. He, however, did not comment on Parakh’s jibe at the prime minister.

The CBI also claimed to have made a fresh recovery from Aditya Birla group, including retail invoice of gold coins to the tune of Rs 94 lakh, investments in various schemes to the tune of Rs 17 lakh and Rs 24 lakh “petty cash.”

The agency has already handed over to the Income Tax department Rs 25 crore which was recovered on Tuesday in a raid at Hindalco’s New Delhi office.

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