The Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday filed an FIR naming Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P.C. Parekh for having allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy to facilitate the partial allocation of an Odisha coal block to the group’s subsidiary Hindalco Industries about eight years ago.
The investigating agency has alleged, in its FIR, that the Coal Ministry Screening Committee’s recommendation that the block be allocated to public sector units (PSUs) was, in a way, circumvented to “accommodate” aluminium major Hindalco. According to the CBI, Mr. Birla would soon be examined in this connection along with the other accused persons.
“During investigations into the second preliminary enquiry instituted on suspected irregularities in the allocations between 1993 and 2011-12, we found that the Talabira II and Talabira III coal blocks in [Odisha’s district of] Jharsuguda were to be allocated only to PSUs. Accordingly, the 25th Screening Committee recommended the allocation of Talabira II to Neyveli Lignite Corporation [NLC] and the contiguous Talabira III block was allocated to Mahanadi Coalfield Limited [MCL],” said CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad.
According to the CBI, the allocation to NLC was made on November 10, 2005. Later that year, the 46-year-old Mr. Birla held a meeting with Mr. Parekh, and “subsequent to that meeting, Hindalco was accommodated in the Talabira II coal block along with NLC and granted mining rights,” said Ms. Prasad.
Based on the purported findings, the agency alleges that the Aditya Birla group subsidiary was extended undue favour arising from a conspiracy between Mr. Birla, the former Coal Secretary and other unknown persons and government officials. “A case was registered on Monday against Mr. Birla as a representative of Aditya Birla Group, Hindalco Industries, P.C. Parekh, and unknown persons/officials under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” said another CBI official.
CBI sleuths conducted simultaneous searches at the three official premises of Hindalco in Mumbai and Delhi, the Bhubaneswar residence of S.K. Tamotia (chief of Hindalco’s Sambalpur office), and the Secunderabad residence of Mr. Parekh.