The investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the coal scandal until now has focused on charges that companies with inadequate expertise and finances managed to land captive coal blocks with millions of tonnes of deposits.
Like the Nagpur-based Jas Infrastructure, against which the CBI has filed charges of concealing its earlier coal allotments, and inflating its net worth.
Now NDTV has unearthed another shocking dimension of this company, of how without even a single concrete asset on the ground, it may have yielded crores for the politicians who have a stake in it.
In 2008, Jas Infrastructure bid for and won the Mohuagarhi coal block in Jharkhand, so that it could set up a power plant in the Banka region of Bihar.
Jas Infra is a group company of the Nagpur-based Abhijeet Infrastructure, in which Congress MP Vijay Darda and his son Devendra have a 2% stake.
In 2010, the Darda's formed another company called Asera Banka Power Ltd, owned entirely by Vijay and Rajendra Darda and their two sons. In the record of his assets declared to the Rajya Sabha in 2010, Vijay Darda has shown a 74% stake in Asera Banka.
In two separate sets of transactions in end of 2012 and April 2012, Asera Banka acquired 5.8 crore shares of Jas Infra at Rs 10 per share, for a total sum of Rs 60 crore. So Asera Banka, a company with no assets and no economic activity, now owned 7% of Jas Infra, a company with a coal blocks.
Here is where things get more mystifying. At around the same time, in March and April 2012, Asera Banka sold 10% of its shares to in two separate transactions to seven companies, for a huge premium of Rs 8885 per share. This earned the company a whopping Rs 113 crore. Darda family members who do not wish to be named said that they floated Asera Banka and sold its shares at a premium because they had to pay Jas Infrastructure for the 7% they acquired. But even after subtracting the Rs 60 crore they need to pay Jas Infra, the Dardas are left with a tidy profit of Rs 40 crore, by offloading only 10% of their company.
The huge valuation is all the more baffling given that Jas Infra has barely begun work on its power plant. And it has been slapped with a show cause notice for not developing its coal block.
Even more mysterious are the companies that bought 10% of Asera Banka at a hugely inflated premium. As per Asera Banka's own declaration, the companies are all Kolkata based, often in the same address, with names like Bullpar Vyapar Ltd, Bicharshil Traders Ltd, and Turnkey Infra Pvt Ltd. When NDTV's team visited these addresses, they found no trace of these companies. Darda family sources insist that these are trading companies, regularly used to raise money by debutante entrepreneurs. Except that the Dardas, as owners of the powerful Lokmat media empire, are hardly business debutantes.
The BJP has alleged that these are shell companies through which kickbacks have been routed to the Dardas for using their influence to acquire the coal block.
CBI sources say they will look more closely at the money trail of Jas Infrastructure and Asera Banka, as the modus operandi of how companies said to be involved in Coal-gate may have wrongfully captured coal blocks, and then monetized them for crores of rupees.