The CBI, expanding its coalgate probe, has launched investigations against 300-odd companies and begun questioning officials of the Steel, Coal and Power departments, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited and the state-run Coal India Limited on allocation of coal blocks between 1993 and 2008.

The CBI has laid hands on nearly 700 files from the Coal Ministry, running into 1,60,000 pages, which contain records of 36 meetings of the Screening Committee during the period. These also include agenda notes prepared for these meetings, said officials associated with the probe.

The CBI branches in Ranchi, Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Dhanbad, Kolkata, Jodhpur, Nagpur, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Jaipur were roped in for field investigations.

“Experts with banking and engineering backgrounds have also been associated in the investigations. Officers of the Corporate Affairs Ministry have been associated with the enquiry for unhindered access to the data of companies being probed.” So far, enquiry against 12 companies has been concluded and FIRs have been filed against nine companies, say the officials.

A team of 20 officers including three SPs and two DIGs has been formed to take up the investigations expeditiously. In addition, 13 officers including two SPs and two DIGs along with six officers are looking into the cases pertaining to the nine FIRs. “The investigators are looking at whether any successful allottee company sold coal from a captive block in the open market and, if yes, whether there any complicity on the part of public servants including Screening Committee members; whether there was change of ownership of the company after the allotment and whether there was any deviation or criminality on the part of any person connected with the process in the matter of allocation,” an official said.

The CBI is also looking into whether the credentials of the applicant companies were verified before allocation. Moreover, the CBI has sought information from all unsuccessful applicants, who responded to the Coal Ministry advertisements issued in 2005-06, on their knowledge of illegality, if any, in coal blocks allocation.

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