Hyderabad :In an effort to step up the investigation into the illegal iron-ore mining by jailed mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy, the CBI has brought Andhra Pradesh’s home minister Sabitha Reddy under its scanner.
CBI officials questioned Reddy for two hours late on Friday. She was the mines minister from 2004 to 2009 during former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s regime and is believed to be instrumental in offering several clearances to various mines companies, including that of Janardhana Reddy.
Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC), owned by Janardhana Reddy, was granted mining leases during YSR’s regime and several files pertaining to the leases were endorsed by Sabitha Reddy. Interestingly, the former mines minister’s questioning follows a grilling of the then mines secretary Sri Lakshmi.
In fact, Sri Lakshmi and the then director of mines, Rajagopal, have been under the CBI scanner and the duo was questioned by the CBI several times.Sri Lakshmi was called for yet another round of questioning by the officials on Friday, followed by Sabitha Reddy’s questioning. However, sources rule out any direct relation between the questioning of the duo.
One key aspect the CBI is looking at is the way the permissions for mining were accorded to Janardhana Reddy’s company. Sources said the CBI has found several interesting aspects in the way the files were cleared. Various approvals for OMC were given by the government and the files were cleared by Sabitha Reddy’s office the same day.
“About six mining leases were cleared on a single day and that is unusual since mining lease is a complicated issue,” the source said. The CBI has already questioned people at various levels starting from the sarpanch of the village where the mines are located to the minister now.
The CBI team has also recently visited Krishnapatnam port, one of the major private sector ports in the country. The port, located in Nellore, was used by Janardhana Reddy to export iron ore. CBI officials are believed to have collected several documents to support their case against him.
Reddy and his brother-in-law, BV Srinivas Reddy, are accused of having indulged in illegal mining and exporting iron ore mined in various places in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh by using OMC’s invoices.
The duo is currently lodged in the Chanchalguda central prison in Hyderabad. The CBI is said to be ready with the content required for the chargesheet and is expected to file the document within the stipulated timeframe.