By Sumit Saxena
New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has uncovered large-scale irregularities in the ownership pattern, financial resources and technical ability of five companies granted mining licences for offshore blocks bearing rare and atomic minerals.
The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director, the Central government has told the Supreme Court.
The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010, says a CBI document.
At that time, the government was unaware that these minerals had strategic and defence value.
The administering authority of these licences did not obtain mandatory clearances from various ministries, especially the Home Ministry, according to the CBI.
The Delhi High Court, in an order dated April 25, directed the Centre to execute the exploration licence of the companies as per the procedure within four weeks from the date of receipt of the order.
The verdict came even after the Centre, in an affidavit dated April 16, told the Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks, bearing atomic minerals, to private parties.
Moving the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling, the Centre accused the companies of not submitting the proper supporting documents on the basis of which the marking was done in the evaluation sheet.
The companies were charged with not providing any document indicating the sanctioned line of credit from any financial institution or bank.
One of the companies approached a leading financial services company seeking finance to carry out mining.
“This document was accepted as a document in support of the financial capability of the applicant company. Accordingly, a MoU was signed on September 23, 2010, which was received by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in October 2010, after the date of submission of application for grant of licences on September 14, 2010,” said an internal CBI document.
Therefore, the Centre believed that the company had not confirmed the sanctioned credit limit as per the revised guidelines.
“The above MoU was valid only till March 31, 2011. Thus, on the date of issue of grant order by IBM on April 5, 2011, the MoU was null and void,” said the document.
According to information from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), the authorised share capital of this company and its sister concerns was Rs 25 lakh each whereas the paid up share capital of each of the companies was Rs 1 lakh.
The net worth was negative for each company during fiscal 2016-17. The companies, even as of now, are not financially capable of undertaking any activities or business operations, said the document.
The companies stated that they were sister companies of 12 other companies engaged in different business sectors.
“The worth of the companies and their directors are more than Rs 300 crore. If the exploration licence is granted to the applicant companies, expenses up to Rs 50 crore can be spent easily and can be further increased up to Rs 100 crore, if required,” says a petition in the Supreme Court.
“However, this is not acceptable since the company has been incorporated as Limited Liability Company and therefore the financial commitments by the sister companies had no relevance in the absence of resolution passed by the Board of Directors of the sister companies,” it added.
Despite the inadequate documents in support of their financial strength, the companies got 25 marks by the screening committee which shortlisted applications for mining licence.
“These private companies failed to produce satisfactory documentation for the requisite technical ability and financial resources to undertake exploration operation”, said an officer familiar with the investigation.
The CBI has charge-sheeted the government officials who in November 2017 signed in haste two licence deeds with one of the companies without following the due process.
The CBI, which has started preliminary enquiry after a gap of six years following a go-ahead from the apex court, favours a full-fledged investigation against everyone linked to the grant of licences.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at [email protected])