Amid bribery furore, illegal mining case against Kamat wound up

Panaji, Aug 11 (IANS) Even as Goa Police piles pressure on former chief minister Digambar Kamat in the Louis Berger bribery case, the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has wound up its investigation against him, another chief minister Pratapsing Rane and several top officials and politicians in a mining scam.

In a written reply to a question by Congress legislator Aleixo Reginaldo in the assembly, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar said that investigations into the case, which involved illegal mining spread over 8,25,229 hectares, had been closed because of a technicality.

“The ‘C’ final summary report has been submitted before special court North, Panaji on 24.04.2015, as the complaint was not filed by the competent authority as required under section 22 of MMDR (Mines and Minerals Regulation and Development) Act,” he said.

Kamat, along with Rane, former director of mines Arvind Lolayekar, J.B. Bhingi, former mines minister Somnath Zuwarkar, chief conservator of forests Shashi Kumar, other officials as well as mine owner and Nationalist Congress Party office bearer Prafulla Hede had been accused of illegally granting a no objection certificate for a mining lease called ‘Godoavadea Javaichen Upor and Negnin Buroda’ in Sanguem sub district, 80 km from here.

Successive Congress-led governments from 2005 to 2012 have been accused of allowing a Rs. 35,000 crore illegal mining scam in which politicians, bureaucrats and mining companies are linked, according to the Justice M.B. Shah Commission of Enquiry appointed by the then United Progressive Alliance government.

Even the Bharatiya Janata Party, which while in opposition had accused the Kamat-led government and its ministers of masterminding the scam, has been accused of going slow on Kamat and other indicted mining magnates, once the party came to power in the state in 2012.

Nearly all mining companies operating in Goa were accused by the Shah Commission of large scale illegalities in his report, which had recommended a thorough probe into the scam.

After coming to power, the BJP, then led by Manohar Parrikar (now defence minister) had rubbished Shah’s findings, and a Special Investigation Team formed by the government in 2012 to probe the mining scam, has failed to nail a single person of consequence indicted in the Shah Commission report.

Kamat, along with former PWD minister Churchill Alemao and other government officials have been accused of allegedly accepting a $976,630 bribe in 2010 from officials of US-based Louis Berger consultancy firm to secure implementation rights of a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage project in Goa worth Rs.1,031 crore funded by the Japan International Co-Operation Agency (JICA), which was cleared in 2010.

According to the Goa Police Crime Branch which is investigating the bribery case, Kamat was paid over Rs.1 crore in multiple installments to ensure that Louis Berger got the consultancy rights for the project.

Kamat has rejected the bribery allegation, claiming he, as chief minister, never cleared the file and that the project was finalised by the PWD ministry. His plea for anticipatory bail comes up for hearing on Wednesday.

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