(Fixes company name in third paragraph)
NEW DELHI, Sept 4 Federal law enforcement
officials raided offices and homes in 10 cities across India on
Tuesday as part of an investigation into irregularities in the
award of coalfield concessions to private and state companies
that has sparked a political crisis.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed cases
against five companies and charged a number of officials with
criminal conspiracy, cheating and intention to commit a crime,
CBI officials said. No arrests have yet been made, although
documents have been seized.
The five companies, which are not listed on stock exchanges,
are small-time players in the main coal-producing states of
eastern India. They include Vini Iron & Steel, JLD Yavatmal
Energy, Jas Infrastructure and AMR Iron & Steel, a CBI official
said on condition of anonymity because raids were still under
Jas Infrastructure confirmed there had been a raid on its
corporate office, but there was no immediate confirmation from
The raids come at a critical time for Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh's government, which has been on the defensive
since the state auditor last month questioned the lack of
transparency in the allocation of scores of coalfields.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seized on
the report to paint the government as corrupt and has all but
paralysed parliament with its demands for Singh to quit over the
affair, which the Indian media has dubbed "coalgate".
The CBI launched an inquiry into allegations of
irregularities in the allocation process before the auditor
released his report on Aug. 17, but the raids widen the furore
beyond parliament, where it has been playing out for weeks.
The report questioned the lack of competitive bidding for
coalfields potentially worth billions of dollars but did not
accuse Singh or other officials of corruption.
Singh has denied any wrongdoing in the allocation of 142
coalfields by a government panel between 2004 and 2009.
Indian media have reported that some of the companies that
won concessions misrepresented their ability to mine the coal or
were linked to political parties.
(Reporting by Ross Colvin, Malini Menon, Suchitra Mohanty,
Sankalp Phartiyal and Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by John
Chalmers and Clarence Fernandez)