Commerce department says CBI probing irregularities in exports

Commerce department says CBI probing irregularities in exports
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First Published: Fri, Mar 23 2007. 12 11 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Mar 23 2007. 12 11 AM IST
New Delhi: Hours after the Bharatiya Janata Party made serious allegations of a scam in pulse exports following a goverment ban, the commerce ministry disclosed that minister Kamal Nath had already asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe on 15 March.
That decision, the ministry said, followed a 12 March Directorate General of Foreign Trade report, which gave the findings from the directorate of revenue intelligence’s “preliminary” investigation pointing the finger at three exporters, and also recommended a “detailed investigation/probe by CBI.”
In a statement, the ministry said the three exporters in question were Jetking International, Kohinoor Foods and KRBL Ltd.
The companies couldn’t immediately be reached for comment till late Thursday.
The entire saga surfaced after BJP national spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad sought the Prime Minister’s intervention in the alleged corruption over export of pulses and made his letter public.
Prasad wrote that the ministry facilitated the alleged scam, with “active patronage and cooperation of senior people in the ministry”.
“If Kamal Nath does not resign, he should be removed,” Prasad later demanded at a press briefing.
In his letter, Prasad pointed out that though the decision to ban export of pulses was announced on 22 June, the notification came only on 27 June. It was followed by another notification on 4 July, which said the ban would not be applicable to exports against irrevocable letters of credit opened on or before 22 June. He pointed out that the government didn’t allow any such latitude while prohibiting the export of other essential commodities. He cited the ministry’s figures to show that, despite the ban, the value of pulse exports rose from Rs361.29 crore to Rs531.57 crore.
A commerce ministry official familiar with the process, who did not wish to be named because of the investigation, said that contrary to allegations, the ministry had actually tightened exports by not allowing the usual transitional arrangements from 22 June.
The official further said the decision applied only to pulses and not wheat, because “there was a view that pulses are a more sensitive commodity”.
BJP isn’t the only party alleging problems with the export of pulses.
Earlier this month, the Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta had alleged that 40,000 tonnes of pulses had been exported using “backdated” documents, after the official ban came into force. But Dasgupta refused to name the companies involved.
News of the probe comes barely a fortnight before crucial assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, giving parties opposed to the Congress new ammunition to attack the government.
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First Published: Fri, Mar 23 2007. 12 11 AM IST