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Did private companies remove coal files to derail CBI probe?

23 Sep 2013

The CBI is probing the role of private companies which bagged coal blocks in the alleged conspiracy of "missing files" from the coal ministry. CBI suspects there is a possibility that private companies in collusion with bureaucrats and lower level officials in the coal ministry got the files removed, so that the agency's probe is derailed.

The agency has decided to take out the visitors registers of senior bureaucrats and other officials of coal ministry to find out about the visits of executives of private companies in the coal ministry in the past one year.

In the two preliminary enquiries registered on Friday to probe the missing files of two periods - 1993-2005 and 2006-2009, CBI said private companies were also being investigated. A senior officer said, "Everything is possible. Allocations were done in connivance with government officials. Since they (private companies) knew they had violated norms, misrepresented facts to get coal blocks and paid bribes to get blocks, there is every likelihood that files have gone missing at their behest."

The agency has already said that "there seems to be a deliberate attempt to halt CBI investigations" in the Supreme Court monitored 1.76 lakh crore Coalgate scam.

Investigations by CBI in the past two days was centered on taking details of government officials who were custodians of files since 1993 and those who prepared minutes of meetings. Officials said executives of private companies often visited coal ministry for routine coal block related work. CBI, sources said, would be looking for unusual and unscheduled visits of private executives in the ministry. Subsequently, CBI would also gather intelligence from independent sources.

CBI has booked close to 20 private companies in its 13 FIRs so far including some big names like Jindal Steel and Power Limited, AMR Iron and Steel, JLD Yavatmal, JAS Infrastructure, Rathi Steel and Power Ltd, Green Infrastructure, Kamal Iron and Sponge and others.

According to agency officials, there are files which do not even exist in the coal ministry. The investigation team is procuring a list of coal ministry employees - serving and retired -- who were custodians of files and their interrogation will begin from next week, said sources.

During the reconciliation, it was found that 15-18 crucial files related to coal block allocations between 2006-2009 are not traceable and it is affecting the agency's probe.

Source: The Times of India