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CBI books Kumar Mangalam Birla, former coal secy for criminal conspiracy in coal scam

After registering the fresh FIR, its 14th in the multi-crore scandal, coordinated searches were carried out by CBI teams at nearly six locations in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar.

The 46-year-old head of the Aditya Birla group will be called in for questioning, CBI sources said.

The agency has booked Birla as a representative of Aditya Birla Group and his group company, aluminium maker Hindalco, for alleged corruption in the allocation of Talabira two coal blocks in Odisha which was allotted to it on November 10, 2005, the sources said.

The blocks were allocated for power production during a meeting of the screening committee, they said.

"CBI registers a fresh case in alleged irregularities in coal scam against the then Coal Secretary, M/s Hindalco, representative of Adita Birla Group, unknown persons and officials," agency spokesperson Kanchan Prasad said.

The US$ 40 billion (about Rs 2.45 lakh crore) conglomerate has denied receiving any FIR and refuted allegations of any wrongdoing.

The CBI action had an immediate fallout with Hindalco shares dropping in the morning by 1.27 per cent. Some of the other Birla companies were also affected.

Parekh, who was Coal Secretary at the time of this allocation, faces charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act as also criminal conspiracy and other offences.

The CBI has been at the receiving end in the Supreme Court which has pased tough questions on why coal fields were allocated to private players without a transparent bidding process, the slow pace of probe as also on missing files.

The Centre had on August 29 faced the ire of the Supreme Court on missing files on Coalgate and for not sharing information with CBI and was directed to hand over relevant documents within two weeks to the agency which would also probe disappearance of certain vital papers.

Holding that the missing documents are vital for the probe in the scam, the apex court had directed the Coal Ministry to lodge complaint with the CBI if it fails to trace any documents, sought by the agency.

The apex court had observed that the agency was still in the "first gear" in its probe and needed to pick up speed.

It directed CBI to conclude the probe against all companies, which were allocated coal blocks, by December this year and ordered it to file the status report on this issue by October 22.

Congress MP Naveen Jindal and former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao have been accused of alleged cheating and graft by CBI in one of its FIRs in the coal scam.

Besides Jindal and Rao, the CBI has also booked companies Jindal Steel and Power Limited and Gagan Sponge which were allotted Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Birbhum, Jharkhand in the year 2008.

The CBI has also registered a case against Delhi-based steel company Rathi Steel and Power Limited, its Chief Executive Officer Udit Rathi and unknown others for allegedly giving false data about its land holdings and capacity while getting a coal block in Chhattisgarh.
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