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Missing file may help babus get away in coal scam

india Updated: Mar 14, 2014 01:57 IST
Abhishek Sharan

Bureaucrats responsible for the Hyderabad-based Navbharat Power Private Ltd (NPPL) being allocated two coal blocks in Odisha in 2008 despite misrepresentations made in the firm’s application could get away as a crucial coal ministry report that could determine their complicity is missing.

The agency suspects that government officials responsible for scrutinising applicants for basic criteria appear to have colluded with the firm, but it cannot charge any government functionary yet as the file containing the report is missing.

Earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed its first charge sheet in the coal blocks allocation scam in which it accused NPPL and its two top officials of misrepresenting facts in their application for the coal blocks. NPPL was allocated the Rampia and Dip-side of Rampia coal blocks and the CBI has alleged that the firm’s promoters made an illegal profit of around `208 crore by selling the company in 2010 after it was allocated those blocks.

A senior CBI source told HT that some other coal scam cases – the agency filed 16 FIRs in all – are also likely to be affected because of the missing file. The Supreme Court has directed the CBI to file charge sheets in five cases by the end of this month.

In 2007, the government had asked experts from the public-sector Coal India Limited (CIL) to scrutinise applications to ascertain the financial strength of the applicants.

The CIL had prepared a scrutiny report but the file containing this report is missing.

“It would have helped us determine if public servants had colluded with the accused firm via willful omission or it was negligence or a systemic flaw,” a CBI officer said.

For a proposed power project of 2,220 MW capacity, the firm was required to have a net worth of at least Rs 4,000 crore as per the coal ministry’s norms.

But the firm’s total worth — including that of its two promoters — was only Rs 300 crore when it applied for the coal blocks. “NPPL wrongfully claimed to have a net worth of around R1 lakh crore on the strength of two European firms — Globeleq and Suez Energy International — in its application form,” the official said.

Acting on an SC directive, the CBI had filed two preliminary enquiries (PE) last September to probe if there was any conspiracy on the part of government officials due to which files related to the coal-scam probe in 29 categories were missing from the coal ministry. In January, senior CBI officials said that since most of the missing files had been recovered and no criminality against any government official was found, the agency would approach the apex court for its permission to close the PEs.