Ready to probe Bengal’s Metro Dairy disinvestment, CBI tells high court

The decision to sell 47% stake in Metro Dairy in 2017 was the only disinvestment by the Mamata Banerjee government since the TMC first came to power in West Bengal in 2011.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started an investigation in 2019 in connection with the sale and questioned officials of Keventer Agro Ltd, the project’s sole private partner at the time of the sale, and at least four IAS officers. (PTI)
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started an investigation in 2019 in connection with the sale and questioned officials of Keventer Agro Ltd, the project’s sole private partner at the time of the sale, and at least four IAS officers. (PTI)
Updated on Nov 09, 2021 11:28 PM IST
Copy Link
ByHT Correspondent

KOLKATA: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday told the Calcutta high court that, if ordered, it can probe the West Bengal government’s sale of its 47% stake in Metro Dairy to the project’s sole private partner which, a short while later, transferred 15% of its shares to a Singapore-based firm for a much higher price.

This is the only disinvestment made by the Mamata Banerjee government since 2011 when the Trinamool Congress (TMC) first came to power.

The division bench of chief justice Prakash Shrivastava and justice Indra Prasanna Mukerji was hearing a petition filed by West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in 2018, demanding a probe by a central agency into what he alleged was a scam.

Metro Dairy was established in 1991 as a public-private venture. The state-run West Bengal Milk Producers Federation had 47 % stake, the Centre-run National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had 10% and the remaining 43% was owned by Keventer Agro Ltd. NDDB later sold its entire stake to Keventer. In 2017, the state government approved the sale of the remaining 47% in an auction. Keventer was the only one to bid.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started an investigation in 2019 and questioned officials of Keventer Agro Ltd, the project’s sole private partner at the time of the sale, and at least four Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers working for the state government. It is unclear what the outcome of this probe was.

After hearing the petitioner and CBI on Tuesday, the two-judge bench ordered all parties, including the state government and Keventer Agro, to file affidavits by December 10 and said the final hearing will take place on December 16, according to lawyer Pratip Kumar Chatterjee, who represented Chowdhury.

Chowdhury’s petition says that in August 2017, the Bengal cabinet approved the sale of the government’s entire 47% stake in Metro Dairy Ltd to Keventer Agro Ltd for around 85 crore. Keventer sold 15% of its shares to a Singapore-based company for around 135 crore a few weeks after becoming the company’s sole owner.

Chowdhury alleged in his petition that the government, which set up the company with public money, suffered a loss of at least 500 crore by selling its stakes to Keventer at a very low price.

Registered in Kolkata, Metro Dairy Ltd has an authorized share capital of Rs.160,000,000 and paid-up capital of Rs. 61,276,000, the company’s website said on Tuesday.

Chowdhury said, “People of Bengal have the right to know why the state sold its shares at such low price. Who decided on this price? There was corruption at every level of this deal. I want a probe by a neutral agency.”

BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh seconded Chowdhury. “This should be probed by the CBI,” he said.

West Bengal government officials refused to speak on this issue.

TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “At a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party is demanding a CBI probe into every minor incident in Bengal just to keep Mamata Banejee under pressure, Chowdhury is helping it. The government will give details of the sale to the court.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • ONGC emergency landing: OSV Malviya 16, a commercial vessel passing through the area was diverted to rescue the five passengers. The sixth passenger was picked by an ONGC support vessel (Representative Image: OngcIndia.com)

    ONGC chopper makes emergency landing in Arabian Sea; Coast Guard joins rescue ops

    A helicopter of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation with nine people on Tuesday made an emergency landing near the Sagar Kiran oil rig in the Arabian Sea about 60 nautical miles (111km) west of Mumbai, people familiar with the matter said. Six of the nine people including the pilot and co-pilot on board the ONGC chopper have been rescued and efforts to bring the remaining three to safety are continuing, officials said.

  • Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra. (ANI Image)

    K'taka Home Min orders police survey to identify overstaying foreigners

    Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra has directed the Dakshina Kannada district police and the city police commissionerate to conduct station-level survey of foreign nationals illegally staying in the district. The survey is to find out foreign nationals overstaying their visas and those who stay without valid documents. The minister directed the police to submit a report on the matter within two weeks. He said the law and order situation in Dakshina Kannada was satisfactory.

  • Bommai said Karnataka has ties with all the G-20 countries and hence, it is only apt to hold these meets in the southern state. (PTI)

    Karnataka CM Bommai promises cooperation in organising G-20 meets

    Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Monday promised full cooperation in organising G-20 meets in the state. The chief minister conveyed his assurance when former foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who is the chief coordinator of G-20, called on him. India is set to take charge as the head of G-20 in December. G-20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union, a statement issued by the chief minister's office said.

  • Cubbon Park has been a popular hang out zone for both dogs and their hoomans to socialise

    Not without my dog: Pet ban at Cubbon Park draws flak

    Pet parents in the city raise their voice against a proposed pet ban at the park, calling it “unfair” Cubbon Park, a popular spot in the city, has been a safe haven for dogs and their owners for years now. On Saturday, the Horticulture Department of Karnataka mulled over imposing a ban on pets in the park, based on several complaints of violations of guidelines for dogs.

  • Ikea opened its fourth and largest store in India on June 22 in Bengaluru. (Image Source: Ikea.com)

    Bengaluru's IKEA is now hiring. See vacancies here

    Swedish furniture giant IKEA is now hiring at its newest location - Bengaluru. The firm, headquartered in the Netherlands, opened its largest store in India on June 22 in Bengaluru's Nagasandra area, adjacent to the metro station. The firm has even decided to shift its purchasing office from Gurugram to Bengaluru, to source products for its global supply chain from India. Supply Planner, Textile Carpets 2. Supply Planner, Textile Products 3. Senior Cyber Engineer 8.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, June 28, 2022