Patnaik dragged into coal scam
Oct 17 2013 , New Delhi
Birla group disowns Rs 25 crore recovered from its Delhi office
The latest accusation came even as the Aditya Birla group washed its hands off the Rs 25 crore cash recovered by CBI from the Hindalco corporate office in the capital on Wednesday.
This money was discovered by CBI officials during coordinated raids across six locations in Bhubaneshwar, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai in connection with the Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam.
In a late evening statement, Aditya Birla group president Pragnya Ram said the company was “taken aback by the discovery of cash at one of its offices by the investigating agency.”
The group has set up a panel of senior officials to probe as to who owns the money and how so much cash came into the Delhi office of Hindalco in the first place.
“…An internal team of senior managers will make a thorough investigation and report its finds at the earliest,” said Pragnya Ram.
The CBI raids were conducted over two days in continuum after it filed a 14th FIR in the case, naming Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the $40 billion Aditya Birla group. Birla has been accused of criminal conspiracy in getting the Talaibara-II and Talaibara-III coal blocks in Jharsuguda district of Odisha to fuel the Rs 11,000 crore Aditya Aluminum project.
On Thursday, a CBI spokesperson claimed Patnaik played his part in getting the decision of the 25th screening committee reversed and in getting the coal blocks allotted to Hindalco, which formed a joint venture with Mahanadi Coalfields and Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
Initially, the blocks were allocated to a joint venture of the two state-run companies, in which Hindalco secured 15 per cent stake. CBI officials also do not rule out the possibility of questioning the Odisha chief minister.
The main allegation against the Odisha chief minister is that he swung the deal for Hindalco after the Aditya Birla Group company’s bid for coal mines was rejected by the coal ministry in 2005.
Patnaik had allegedly written a letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh with a request to relook and reverse the rejection of Birla company’s application. The prime minister’s office (PMO) had forwarded Patnaik’s request to the coal ministry, following which PC Parakh panel’s earlier decision to reject the Birla firm’s application was reversed, CBI officials claimed.
(PTI adds: The Odisha government reacted to the CBI charge, saying Patnaik had written a letter to the prime minister for examining Hindalco’s request for block allotment “keeping the best interest of the state in mind.”
“Keeping the best interests of the state in mind, the chief minister had written a letter to the PM, indicating that Hindalco’s request for Talaibara II coal block in the IB valley of Jharsuguda district be examined,” the Odisha government said in a press statement.)
In its FIR, CBI said that after the rejection of Hindalco’s plea in 2005, Birla wrote two letters and held a ‘personal meeting’ with the then coal secretary PC Parakh.
“Pursuant to these letters and personal meeting between Parakh and Birla, Parakh by abusing his official position as a public servant recommended the allocation of Talaibara II along with Talabira III coal blocks to Hindalco Industries Limited, along with other two companies without any valid basis or change in circumstances and with the sole intention to show undue favours to Hindalco Industries Limited,” the CBI FIR said. CBI has begun scrutinising the documents seized from Hindalco offices in six locations and Parakh’s residence in Hyderabad on Tuesday. CBI officials also hinted that they may question Birla and Parakh in connection with the case.