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Congress seeks CBI probe into iron ore export scam

Bangalore, July 6 (Calcutta Tube) The opposition Congress party Tuesday claimed Rs.600 billion worth of iron ore has been exported illegally from Karnataka in the last few years and sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the matter.

The illegally mined ore has been exported from ports in Mangalore and Belekeri in Karnataka and Visakhapatnam in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, leader of opposition in the assembly Siddaramaiah of the Congress said in the house.

‘Only a probe by the CBI will bring out the truth,’ he said during a discussion on the resignation of Karnataka Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) N. Santosh Hegde.

Hegde, a retired Supreme Court judge, who quit June 23 citing government’s indifference to check corruption, has since announced he will withdraw his resignation as he has been promised that action will be taken on his suggestions and he will be given adequate powers to fight corruption.

The ombudsman’s enquiry has revealed that 500,000 tonnes of illegally mined iron ore, seized by officials on his orders and stored at Belekeri port in Uttara Kannada district, had been exported using forged documents.

Siddaramaiah referred to the ‘disappearance’ of 500,000 tonnes of iron ore from Belekeri port and said that about 3.5 million tonnes of illegally-mined iron ore had been exported between November 2009 and February 2010.

Since iron ore extracted in Karnataka is also exported from Mangalore and Visakhapatnam ports, ‘the value of illegal export would be between Rs.500 billion and Rs.600 billion,’ the Congress leader asserted.

Countering the demand for a CBI probe, state Law Minister S. Suresh Kumar said it functioned as the ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation’.

The state police Crime Department and the Lok Ayukta are conducting separate probes into the ‘disappearance’ of 500,000 tonnes of seized ore from Belekeri port.

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