New Delhi, April 28, 2012: A Supreme Court-appointed panel has recommended a thorough probe by a Central investigating agency into the illegal iron ore exports, including a large volume of seized ore at Belekeri port in Uttara Kanada district.
CEC has described illegal exports as “ rarest of rare incident.”The Central Empowered Committee of the apex court, in its latest report to the court on Friday, came down heavily on the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Karnataka for their “shoddy” investigation into the matter. The CID had either overlooked many sensitive aspects or did not at all investigate them, the panel stated in its report.
The CID carried out an investigation into massive illegal iron ore exports from Belekeri, including the sudden “disappearance” of large quantities of ore meant for exports but seized at the port, as revealed in a Karnataka Lokayutka report.
The CEC recommendation to the apex court could spell serious trouble for some companies and persons involved in illegal mining, transportation and export of iron ore. It could also spell trouble for politicians and bureaucrats whose alleged nexus with mining companies facilitate illegal mining.
Recommending a probe by a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) like agency, the CEC stated in its report that value of the illegally exported ore be recovered from the concerned persons. “The value of illegal iron ore, based on the value assessed by the Customs Department for the purpose of customs duty, may be directed to be recovered from the concerned persons,” the report said.
Further, the panel recommended strong follow-up actions as well. “In view of considerable time having already lapsed , the investigations may be directed to be carried out in a time-bound manner and thereafter the trial of the cases may be considered to be entrusted to designated court(s) for day-to-day hearing,” the CEC stated. If the Supreme Court accepts these recommendations, four major companies, several exporters, a number of government officials, including customs, port, forest, and transport department may come under the scanner. The green bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia, which is hearing the illegal mining cases in Karnataka, will sit on Monday.
The panel suspects that the value of illegally exported ore from Belekeri port could exceed Rs 2,500 crore. The CEC, quoting the Lokayukta report, said from November 2009 to March 2011, around 83 lakh tonnes of iron ore worth Rs 2,503 crore were exported illegally from the Belekeri port alone.
Expressing unhappiness over the progress of the probe made by the CID, the panel headed by P V Jayakrishanan said the new probe should look into the entire matter including the details of iron ore brought to the port and exported since 2009. It also suggested fixing the responsibility on officials who were involved in illegalities, besides erring exporters, suppliers, transporters etc.
On illegal export of seized iron ore of around 9.06 lakh tonnes from Belekeri port, the report said “it is the rarest of rare incident(s) (that) happened in the country”. It said as per the CID report, at Belekeri port about 9.06 lakh tonnes of seized iron ore was stacked on March 20, 2010. This ore was seized after it was found that it was illegally transported from the ore-rich districts in Karnataka without valid permits. It was alleged that four companies (port service providers-stevedores), Adani Enterprises Ltd, Shree Mallikarjun Shipping Pvt. Ltd., Salgaoncar Mining Industries Pvt. Ltd and Rajmahal Silks exported 7.57 lakh ore illegally.
The CEC said that over 39 exporters were involved in illegal export of iron ore from Karnataka though Krishnapatnam (15.14 lakh tonnes) in Andhra Pradesh and seven exporters exported 3.45 lakh tonnes from Chennai port after the state banned the export from its port. To probe this, the CEC said that the state government should set up an inter departmental team of officers on full-time basis to find out the details of the illegal iron ore exported by verifying the lessees, stock yards, transporters, exporters.