Coal scam: CBI plans FIRs against other industrial houses

Stung by the trenchant criticism of the CBI naming Hindalco chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla in an FIR in the coal allocation scam, the central agency is now reported to be working to name several other large industrial houses in fresh FIRs.

CBI director Ranjit SinhaAmidst talk of the CBI trying to deflect the case away from its focal point of the prime minister's office, CBI has initiated preliminary enquiries into the allocation of mines between 2006 and 2009, which could delay investigations beyond the Parliament elections due next year.

Reports said the CBI is likely to name heads of several other large firms such as Tata Steel, Vedanta, Essar, ArcelorMittal, GMR, Reliance Energy and Lanco who were allotted coal blocks during this period since it does not want to ''discriminate among owners.''

Alongside the CBI probe, the income tax department has also decided to re-open tax assessments of the Hindalco group for the last six years, following an alleged seizure of Rs25 crore cash at Hindalco's office in Delhi on Wednesday.

Speaking to media persons after meeting finance minister P Chidambaram and revenue secretary Sumit Bose in the North Block office, Kumar Mangalam Birla said he had also discussed the issue of the CBI FIR among other things with the finance minister.

"We are in so many other industries. There are so many other things to discuss with him," he said, adding that Hindalco had done no wrong and that he was not worried about the FIR.

Asked whether the FIR would cast a shadow on the Aditya Birla Group's application for a bank licence, Birla said it would have no impact on the bank licence issue.

"As of now, I am not worried about it. There is nothing wrong (that) has been done, so why should one worry?" he said.

The CBI has lodged a case against Birla and former coal secretary P C Parekh on charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption in connection with the allocation of coal blocks eight years ago.

According to the CBI's FIR, after rejection of Hindalco's plea in 2005, coal secretary Parakh reversed the decision after Birla wrote two letters and held "personal meeting" with him .

Reports, however, point to involvement of the prime minister' office in reversing a decision to allocate the coal blocks to public sector Mahanadi Coal Fields and Neyveli Lignite in favour of the Aditya Birla Group.