The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) formed 15 special teams and conducted simultaneous searches in the offices of several mining firms across the State on Saturday.
On Friday, the CBI registered five first information reports (FIRs) and submitted them to the Special CBI Court here.
This procedure was secretive to avoid alerting those who are under the scanner.
The searches were conducted in Bangalore, Hospet, Yellapur, Karwar and the Belekeri port.
The offices of four stevedores at the Belekri port, Adani Enterprises Ltd., Salgaoncar Minerals, Rajmahal Silks, Mallikarjun Shipping, ILC Industries, Dream Logistics, S.B. Logistics and Greentex Industries were searched.
Searches were conducted at the houses of Congress leader Satish Sail, owner of Mallikarjun Shipping, in Karwar; R.P. Naik, manager of Salgoancar company in Belekeri; and Vivek Hebbar, director of Dream Logistics in Yellapur.
The CBI also searched the houses of Karapudi Mahesh and Swastik Nagaraj, who are accused of illegally transporting iron ore under the protection of jailed mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy, by paying him a percentage of their earnings.
The CBI registered the fresh FIRs on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The court was, in turn, acting on two separate reports submitted to it by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which pointed to large-scale illegal export of iron ore from the Belekeri port between January 1, 2009 and May 31, 2010. According to CEC estimates, at least 50 lakh tonnes of iron ore was illegally exported by 70 firms to countries such as China and Pakistan.
“The transportation of such a huge quantity of iron ore involving over 5,00,000 truck trips could not have been possible without the knowledge and active connivance of the officers and other public servants concerned,” the CEC report of September 6, 2012 had said.
Element of surprise?
Despite the secrecy under which the entire operation was conducted, CBI officials do not believe there was an element of surprise. “Owners of the firms and properties that were searched would have had an inkling about the operation as it was well known that we would be filing FIRs,” said a CBI source.
Another CBI officer said that despite the absence of the surprise element, the teams managed to impound a large cache of documents and bank details from the period when the alleged illegalities took place.