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Madras HC orders probe into missing gold; action against officials if involved, says CBI
Chennai, December 12, 2020
The Madras High Court has ordered a probe by the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID) into the missing 103.864 kg gold out of the 400.47 kg gold seized by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from Surana Corporation Ltd and kept under lock and key.
The 103.864 kg gold was found missing when the seized gold was weighed to be handed over to the liquidator of Surana Corporation.
The high court order came on Friday.
The CBI on Saturday said its internal enquiry is continuing and if the adverse role of any of its officials surfaces, strict action will be taken against them.
But on Friday, the CBI in a curious submission told the court that the gold when it was seized several years back was weighed together and when it was to be handed over to the liquidator each item was weighed individually and hence there was a difference.
According to the CBI, the seized gold was kept in the vaults of Surana Corporation and the keys were handed over to a special court for CBI cases.
Rejecting an objection raised by the CBI against the CB-CID probe as it would hurt the prestige of the organisation, the high court said all policemen are to be trusted and ordered the probe.
The court also ordered the liquidator C. Ramasubramaniam to lodge a complaint with the CB-CID.
The matter dates back to 2012, when the CBI had booked a case against the officials of the Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) for showing undue favours to Surana Corporation, a gold importer.
The probe agency had raided Surana Corporation and seized 400.47 kg gold.
Later, the CBI said the seized gold was not needed for prosecuting the MMTC officials for corruption but filed another case in 2013 against Surana Corporation for violation of the Foreign Trade Policy.
The seized gold was transferred from the 2012 case to the 2013 case. Later the case was closed as there was no offence committed.
However, the CBI had petitioned the Special Court to transfer the gold to the office of Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) on the grounds that ownership of the metal is subject to the corruption inquiry.
The company sought the possession of the gold as it had taken bank loans and the State Bank of India (SBI) sought the possession of the yellow metal.
The banks had initiated insolvency proceedings against Surana Corporation.
The Special Court in 2017 ordered handing over of the gold to the SBI and when the inventory was taken it was found that the gold weighed 296.06 kg only which was 103.864 kg less than the original 400.47 kg seized in 2012.
Liquidator Ramasubramaniam had approached the high court asking for a direction to the CBI to hand over the missing gold.
The CBI in a clarification on Saturday said it searched the building of Surana Corporation and prepared a search list.
The search list mentioned that 400.47 kg gold has been inventorised and was kept in the safe and vaults of Surana Corporation, sealed in the presence of independent witnesses and the Managing Director of the company and its officials, the CBI said.
According to the CBI, as per the directions of the Madras High Court, the vaults were opened in the presence of the official liquidator, officials belonging to six banks and independent witnesses and inspected from 27/02/2020 to 29/02/2020 to hand over the gold to the lender banks of Surana Corporation.
The seals affixed on the vaults were found intact. However, the gold weighed only 296.66 kgs. As the discrepancy in the quantity mentioned in the search memo came to notice, the CBI promptly ordered an internal inquiry by a senior officer to look into the role of its officials, if any, the CBI said in a statement.
It is clarified that the inventorised gold was not kept in the malkhana of the CBI. Rather it was in the premises of Surana Corporation under seal, the agency added.