Investment and tax evasion to be looked into by Enforcement Directorate

The Congress government on Thursday decided to hand over the probe into the multi-crore mining scam in the State to a Special Investigation Team (SIT), the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate and also establish a special court to try cases in which officials allegedly aided illegal mining.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, gave the green signal for an investigation by the CBI into illegal export of iron ore from seven ports in Karnataka and neighbouring States.

Addressing presspersons on the decisions taken by the Cabinet, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra said that the government has decided to fulfil the promise made to the electorate on illegal mining during the run-up to the Assembly elections. A huge quantity of ore has been exported from Mangalore, Karwar and ports in neighbouring States and the CBI would be asked to investigate illegal transportation of ore from these ports.

The CBI has been investigating the case of iron ore that went missing from Belikere port.

Noting that the report on illegal mining by the then Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde had raised many issues pertaining to the scam, Mr. Jayachandra said that an SIT would be constituted. The issues to be investigated include evasion of royalty to the government and forest development tax.

To investigate cases relating to investment made from wealth accruing from illegal mining, he said that the Cabinet had decided to hand over such cases to the ED for facilitation of invoking the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, a Central law.

It is alleged that several leaders and officials involved in illegal mining had invested in landed property within the State and outside.

Mr. Jayachandra said that a special court would be established to try illegal mining cases. Mr. Hegde’s final report submitted in July 2011 estimated the loss of revenue to the Exchequer between 2006 and 2010 due to illegal mining at more than Rs. 16,000 crore.

The report had also named 797 officials. To study the charges against officials, a decision has been taken to constitute a Cabinet sub-committee and the Chief Minister will constitute it, the Minister said.

“It is a bold decision of the government,” Mr. Jayachandra said, referring to the latest Cabinet decision on the scam.

A committee, headed by Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath, has submitted a report on action taken on illegal mining to the government. Earlier, the K. Jairaj committee set up by the BJP government studied the recommendations made by the Lokayukta.

Following his indictment in the Lokayukta report, the then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa resigned from his post.

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