Birla’s Hindalco Probed Again Over India Coal Mine Allocation

India’s top investigating agency opened a fresh probe against billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco Industries Ltd., over alleged graft in the allocation of coal mines.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, carried out searches on three sites in Odisha state and one in Mumbai, CBI spokeswoman Kanchan Prasad said in a text message Friday, Jan. 23, confirming the probe of the Talabira-I mine.

Hindalco, India’s second-largest aluminum and copper producer, gained the mine as part of its acquisition of Indal, Pragnya Ram, spokeswoman for Aditya Birla Group said in an e-mail. This mine was allocated to Indal in 1994, she said.

“The CBI has been investigating coal block allocations made since 1993, under the monitoring of the Supreme Court,” she said, adding that CBI had already filed its “closure report” against Talabira II & III coal mines.

Special Court Judge Bharat Parashar asked the CBI on Dec. 16 to further probe the involvement of Hindalco as well as to query former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was then coal minister. Singh was questioned by the CBI earlier this week, according to a report in The Economic Times.

The case, registered on Oct. 14 last year, against Hindalco, Birla, a former coal secretary and others involves the 2005 allocation of the Talabira coal blocks in Odisha to the company.

In August 2012, an Indian federal auditor said that the country’s policy of allocating coal mines without auction may have cost the government 1.86 trillion rupees ($30.3 billion). India, which traditionally gave away coal mines, is in the process of auctioning blocks for the first time.

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