Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Offshore Mining Scam: CBI closes probe into seabed mining licence

New Delhi: The CBI has closed its inquiry into alleged irregularities in allocation of offshore mining rights to companies for exploring minerals in the seabed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. Last September, CBI had started a probe into alleged favours extended to companies by officials of the Indian Bureau of Mines while awarding licences for the country’s first-ever attempt to explore untapped mineral wealth lying in the seabed.

CBI sources said it closed the inquiry as the matter was already under ‘judicial scrutiny’ and prima facie nothing malafide was found. They said they had given their recommendation to the Indian Bureau of Mines in this regard.

Sources, however, said in case the HCs, where the cases are going on, direct the agency to carry out a thorough probe, it will proceed. It was alleged that four beneficiary companies owned by family members of an Indian Revenue Service officer were under the agency’s scanner as they bagged nearly half of the blocks despite lacking necessary qualification, they said.

Sources claimed government had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28 were awarded to companies owned by family members of the IRS officer, who had also served in mines ministry. Each block measuring about 800 sq km is estimated to have huge unexplored mineral wealth in the seabed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

The final award of licences had been put on hold after aggrieved parties approached the Bombay HC and the Andhra Pradesh HC seeking their cancellation.

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