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The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) probe into the alleged illegal export of iron ore from 10 minor ports in Karnataka, following the Supreme Court’s direction, is likely to see more skeletons tumble out.
A recent report of the apex court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has pointed to the involvement of large corporate entities. It has said as many as 73 exporters shipped five million tonnes of ore illegally from ports in Karnataka between January 2009 and May 2010. During the period, the state government had issued mineral dispatch permits (MDPs) for only 3.82 mt for export from Belekeri port.
While a large quantity of illegal ore went to China from Belekeri port directly, some consignments landed in Pakistan via Kandla port. The former Lokayukta of Karnataka, Justice Santosh Hegde, had found enough evidence for exports to Pakistan and mentions it in his final report on illegal mining submitted to Karnataka government on July 27, 2011.
“The transportation of such a huge quantity of iron ore, involving over 500,000 truck trips, could not have been possible without the knowledge and active connivance of the officers and other public servants concerned,” the CEC report said.
It has named four leading exporters — ILC Industries (986,000 tonnes), Dream Logistics (916,000 tonnes), S B Logistics (774,000 tonnes) and Shree Mallikarjuna Shipping (723,000 tonnes). The ore was exported from Belekeri. It may be noted that of the five mt illegally exported, about 800,000 tonnes were actually under order of seizure by the forest department and the court before it was sent out, in violation of the orders. The CEC recommended investigation into the role of other entities involved, having listed a number of names in this regard. It also directed a preliminary inquiry in respect of 3.22 mt of ore shipped by 18 exporters from Belekeri.
The list includes big corporations such as Adani Enterprises, Salgaocar Mining Industries, VSL Mining, MSPL, Mineral Enterprises, Shree Mallikarjuna Shipping, Bharat Mines & Minerals and Kirloskar Ferrous Industries. The CEC recommended CBI investigate cases wherein the alleged quantities of illegally exported ore, based on the preliminary enquiry, are found to be above 50,000 tonnes.
It recommended CBI be directed to investigate all aspects of the illegality in respect of the ore seized on March 20, 2010, from Belekeri by the forest department, a substantial part of which is alleged to have been exported illegally.
In its order of last week, the SC ordered CBI to file first information reports and carry out thorough and intensive investigation, including, if required, custodial interrogation.
“At the same time, the CBI should also conduct preliminary inquiry as suggested in the report of the CEC,” the order said.
It also ordered the Criminal Investigation Department, Karnataka, to hand over all records in regard to that case to CBI. All agencies of the government, including the income tax department, has been asked to extend full cooperation to CBI. It will be open to CBI to take into account reports of the state Lokayukta as well and it is to give a preliminary report of the investigation to the court within six weeks.