Coal import scam under Parl panel lens

Incidents of around 40 public and private companies inflating invoices of imported coal to avail higher power tariff compensation have now come under the scanner of a Parliamentary committee.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy headed by Kirit Somaiya has in a recent meeting pulled up government officials for turning a blind eye towards the companies’ illegal ways that has caused loss to the exchequer.

The committee’s action came after an alert issued by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in March this year on certain importers of Indonesian coal “artificially inflating” its import value, sources said.

The DRI report said coal was directly shipped directly from Indonesian ports to the importers in India but the import invoices were routed through one or more intermediaries based in Singapore, Dubai, Hing Kong and British Virgin Islands. “These intermediary firms appear to be either subsidiary companies of Indian importers or their front companies,” the report said.

This, the report that was circulated among the MPs said, is suspected to be for siphoning off money abroad and to avail higher power tariff compensation based on artificially inflated cost of the coal.

The report also provided a list of 40 importers of coal who were under the investigation of the DRI, including five Adani Group companies, two Anil Ambani Group companies and two Essar Group companies. Among the government institutions, Karnataka Power Corporation Ltd, Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Haryana Power Generation Corporation Ltd, Tamil Nadu Newsprint Ltd and National Thermal Power Corporation. These companies could not be reached for their comments.

It also showed that the Indian companies in some cases have not submitted the original copies of documents to the Indian Customs. In some cases, the report said, the value of the imported coal submitted to Indian Custioms were found to have been masked or obliterated in order to avoid detection or to conceal the actual price.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 18, 2016)

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