Steel magnate and Congress MP Naveen Jindal was questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation here on Thursday in connection with a coal block allocation case registered against him and the former Minister of State for Coal, Dasari Narayana Rao, about three months ago.
The two have been accused by the agency of conspiring to obtain a Jharkhand coal block for Mr. Jindal’s companies on false representation.
A CBI spokesperson said: “Summons have been issued to Mr. Jindal. He was questioned this afternoon.” It is learnt that Mr. Jindal was not summoned to the CBI headquarters, but was questioned by a CBI team at an undisclosed location.
Mr. Jindal, director of Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL), was named as an accused along with Mr. Rao in the 12th case registered by the CBI in June for alleged irregularities in the joint allocation of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block at Birbhum in Jharkhand to JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Limited. Mr. Jindal is a stakeholder in the sponge firm.
According to the CBI, the companies had applied for coal blocks in 2007, and the allocation was made a year later following a recommendation by the screening committee. Mr. Rao was the then Minister of State for Coal.
The CBI probe revealed that JSPL and Gagan Sponge allegedly made false representations on their preparedness and eligibility to acquire the coal block.
The accused companies had earlier been allocated at least six coal blocks, but they showed less number of allocations to meet the criteria. The alleged conspiracy was detected during investigations into the financial transactions made between JSPL and a Hyderabad-based company, Saubhagya Media.
CBI officials found out that while the listed price of Saubhagya Media was Rs. 28 per share, a company in the Jindal group bought its shares worth Rs. 2.25 crore at the rate of Rs. 100 per share.
“The amount paid was way above the listed price, which raised suspicions about a possible quid pro quo . The shares were bought in December 2008, after the said coal block was allocated.”
The CBI suspects that the amount invested in Saubhagya Media came from Gagan Sponge and was forwarded to ND Exim via Jindal Realty as loans, before being paid off to Mr. Rao’s company for share purchase. “The Congress MP is a shareholder in Gagan Sponge, Jindal Realty and ND Exim,” a CBI official had earlier said.
In a related development, the CBI has completed investigation in five other coal block allocation cases and is expected to file charge sheets soon.