New Delhi/Bangalore: In a setback to former Karnataka chief minister B.S Yeddyurappa, who is planning to start his own political party after falling out with the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday filed charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery and corruption against him and JSW Steel Ltd.
The agency, which started investigations at the direction of the Supreme Court in May, named Yeddyurappa, sons B.Y. Vijayendra and B.Y. Raghavendra, son-in-law R.N. Sohan Kumar and the family-run Prerana Educational and Social Trust. The agency also included provisions of the Karnataka Land (Restriction on Transfer) Act in the chargesheet filed before a special CBI court in Bangalore.
“JSW Steel Ltd represented by Sajjan Jindal, chief executive officer Vinod Nowal, vice- president Vikas Sharma were also named as accused in the chargesheet,” a CBI spokesperson said. “South West Mining Ltd, Real Technical Solution Pvt. Ltd, Jai Bharat Technical Services Pvt. Ltd, Industrial Techno Manpower Supply and Services Pvt. Ltd were also booked under the same charges.”
South West Mining did not respond to phone calls made to the number provided on its website. Real Technical Solution, Jai Bharat Technical Services, Industrial Techno Manpower could not be reached for comments.
CBI said Yeddyurappa abused his official position to benefit JSW Steel.
“The accused hatched a criminal conspiracy during 2006-2010. The family members of Yeddyurappa purchased a (plot) of Rs.40 lakh after violating and bending norms. The land was then sold to JSW at an exorbitant rate of Rs.20 crore when its market value was only Rs.1.5 crore,” the agency alleged in its chargesheet.
“The company paid Rs.20 crore as quid pro quo to the former Karnataka chief minister for not insisting on the recovery of Rs.890 crore loss caused to a state-run public sector unit Mysore Minerals Ltd. The said PSU was in a joint venture with JSW Steel. The money was paid through sister companies as a donation to the trust run by the kin of the then chief minister,” the chargesheet added.
The joint venture referred to is Vijayanagar Minerals Pvt. Ltd (VMPL), formed between Mysore Minerals, a Karnataka government unit, and JSW Steel in 1997. The venture was formed so that JSW could exclusively source iron ore from MML’s Timmappanagudi mines in Bellary for its steel plant.
However, a Lokayukta report in July 2011 revealed that nearly 365,000 tonnes of iron ore was sold to another Jindal-affiliated company and exported, a violation of the terms of the joint venture.
JSW Steel said in an email statement said that it had learnt from media reports about the CBI chargesheet.
“As the copy of the chargesheet has not been served on any of the officers of the company, it is premature to offer comments. However, during the investigation stage, the company has cooperated with the investigating authorities and provided all the details in connection with the alleged transactions,” the company said in a statement. “The conclusions drawn by the said authorities leading to chargesheet are without basis. The company always abides by law of the country and would present its case before the court,” it added.
In New Delhi, the main opposition BJP, which has been targeting the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for a series of corruption scandals, defended the estranged Yeddyurappa.
“He will come out clean,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said. The BJP has accused the Congress of misusing CBI to target opposition leaders.
The Supreme Court order in May came after a court-appointed committee found sufficient grounds to investigate Yeddyurappa. The charges were first documented by the Lokayukta (anti-corruption ombudsman) in July 2011. Yeddyurappa was forced to resign from the chief minister’s post when the Lokayukta report was made public.
Yeddyurappa made public his intention to form a new political party after the BJP central leadership refused to reinstate him as either chief minister or BJP state president. He announced earlier this month that he would launch a new party by December.
Ruchira Singh in New Delhi contributed to this report.