Investigations uncover network of operatives behind Koda's operations

Madhu Koda the erstwhile chief minister of Jharkhand, now at the centre of a massive corruption scandal was not known for dynamism, but could certainly attend to his duties with admirable dispatch when it came to clearing mining licenses. In what could certainly be a record of sorts, the former chief minister and minister for mines cleared 48 mining licenses in a single hour.

Over the three-and-half year that he handled the mines portfolio, the state signed memoranda of understanding worth Rs161,708 crore with private parties to set up sponge iron factories and steel plants. He also renewed or issued fresh licences to at least 150 miners.

Investigators probing the financial irregularities have been amazed by the manner in which Koda and his cohorts went about building an ingenious money laundering network over a short period of time. The web they spun extended from the remote outbacks of Jharkhand all the way to the Alpine tax havens of Switzerland.

It started with money made in allotment of mines, followed by a backward integration into prospecting licenses covering the approval given to parties to work out the nitty-gritty's of operations for developing the mines, like the lay of the land, spread of deposits, quality of ore etc. Developers are required to obtain actual mining licences before they can take the next step to actual extraction of the ore.

The prospecting licence fee is much lower than that for the actual mining and under the benevolent oversight of Koda companies could conveniently dispense with the latter and move into mining operations on a mere prospecting licence. Koda's win-win approach ensured there was no documentary record of the ore that was mined the prospecting licence holders sold the iron off the books.

With Koda at the helm, the state sponsored illegal mining spree that defrauded the state exchequer out of hundreds of crores on licensing fees and royalty from illegally mined ore.