CBI actions against illegal coal trading helped ECL get better price: agency official

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Kolkata, Jan 7 (PTI) Illegal coal trading in the Asansol-Jharia belt in West Bengal and Jharkhand has stopped completely following raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is probing the matter, and ECL is getting better prices for that, n senior official of the investigating agency said on Thursday.

The official said that thousands of crores of rupees have been involved in the illegal trading in this zone and, in terms of money exchanged illegally, it is a bigger scam than the cattle smuggling operation at the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal, which is also being investigated by the CBI.

After the probe agency stopped illegal trading in the Asansol-Jharia belt, prices of coal at e-auctions at the Eastern Coal Fields (ECL) have gone up, he claimed.

'Because illegal excavation has stopped, consumers are purchasing coal through the legal routes for which the ECL is now realising better margins,' the official told PTI on condition of anonymity.

The ECL clocked a 40 per cent rise over notified prices in the recent e-auctions and CBI raids on illegal trading are definitely one of the reasons for it, an ECL official said.

The CBI official said that its Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) has taken this action against the coal mafia suo motu and it was not instructed by any government or any other constitutional body such as courts.

He said that the ACB under DIG Akhilesh Kumar Singh has raided the premises of alleged kingpin of the illegal coal trading racket Anup Majhi alias Lala and his close aide Ratnesh Verma.

'These two primary suspects are absconding. Their escape routes have been closed,' the official said adding that if needed, the agency will attach properties of the two.

CBI teams are camping at Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district to find out other people involved in the racket.

According to the official, the CBI found that the amount of money involved in illegal trading of coal amounts to thousands of crores of rupees.

'But the actual loss to Coal India is multiple times more due to huge quantum of slush money involved in these illegal transactions,' he added.

The CBI is now in the process of building evidence by talking to various people such as truck drivers who were involved in transporting illegal coal.

The agency, he said, started detecting illegal coal mining much before the rainy season last year. 'Throughout the rainy season, the CBI has been lying low. It got into the act once the rainy season got over'.

He said that six officials of the ECL have also been identified for being a part of the racket, of whom one died of heart attack on the day of the raid at his premises.

The CBI on November 28 carried out a massive search operation at 45 locations in four states after registering a case against alleged coal pilferer Anup Manjhi who was suspected to be acting in collusion with two general managers and three security personnel of the ECL.

The searches were spread across West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. PTI dc BSM NN NN