The raids carried out by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths on the offices of mining companies and stevedoring agents in Karwar, Yellapur, and Belekeri ports in Uttara Kannada district on Saturday have put the opposition Congress in the State in a spot.
All these days, the Congress had mounted a scathing attack on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders accusing them of “looting iron ore”.
On Saturday, the CBI sleuths raided the houses of two Congress leaders — Satish Sail, owner of Mallikarjuna Shipping Company in Karwar and Belekeri, and Shivaram Hebbar, former director of Dream Logistic Company, Yellapur. Mr. Shivaram Hebbar has clarified that he is no longer a director of the company and his son Vievek Hebbar is looking after the business.
Mr. Shivaram Hebbar, who was the Congress candidate in the last Assembly election from Yellapur constituency, lost to V.S. Patil of the BJP. Mr. Sail contested as the Congress candidate from the Karwar Assembly constituency in the byelection in 2010 and lost to Anand Asnotikar of the BJP.
The CBI raided the houses and offices of the owners and directors of 13 companies who had exported half of the illegally mined iron ore (about 25 lakh tonne) from Belekeri between 2009 and 2010.
With the CBI filing five more first information reports (FIRs), the heat is now on a Janata Dal (Secular) leader, a Minister from the district, and a former MLC of the Congress, sources say.
The JD(S) leader, who is a ticket aspirant for the next Assembly election, is said to be the owner of a transport company and had transported lakhs of tonnes of illegally mined iron ore from Bellary. With the Supreme Court specifically asking the CBI to investigate the role of transporters, he is under intense scrutiny, it is said.
The CBI team is likely to raid a Minister belonging to the district as he had been a party to the memorandum of understanding signed with a company on whose office was raided on Saturday. This company had allegedly built a jetty illegally in the Belekeri port the work on which was later stopped by the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission.
Trail of transportation
Although the case relating to the illegal export of iron ore has not been shifted from Karwar court to the CBI by the Supreme Court, the trail of illegal transportation may lead the team to the coastal town, port officials said. Handling agents at the Karwar port had been given the subcontract of transporting iron ore by a company owned by Shubhalata Asnotikar, former MLC, and it was again given on subcontract to the Karwar Port and Dock Workers’ Union, of which Ms. Asnotikar is the president, port officials said.