New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against the managing director of Kerala government PSU Travancore Titanium Products Limited (TTPL) and others in connection with its losses of Rs 120 crore due to alleged irregularities in the hiring of 'MECON, Ranchi, Uttaranchal' as a consultant in 2004.
The FIR registered recently also names TTPL former managing director Eapen Joseph. 'MECON, Ranchi, Uttaranchal', was hired as a consultant for the installation of a pollution control plant.
The CBI alleged that Joseph abused his official position and committed criminal misconduct to enter into a criminal conspiracy with then officials -- chief manager (marketing) Santosh Kumar and executive director AM Bhaskaran.
They allegedly appointed 'MECON, Ranchi, Uttaranchal', a PSU under the steel ministry, as a consultant at a charge of Rs 9 crore instead of the agreed Rs 3.5 crore, the FIR, registered on the directions of the Kerala High Court, said.
The FIR lists the MD of TTPL as accused number one but does not give the name.
TTPL manufactures titanium dioxide pigment widely used in tablet and pellet coatings. The process generates large quantities of liquid effluent containing ferrous sulphate and sulphuric acid, discharged into the Arabian Sea.
In 2003-04, the TTPL engaged 'Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants (India) Limited (MECON), Ranchi, Uttaranchal' to address the problem. MECON had to prepare a basic project implementation document (BPID), an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and an environmental management plan (EMP) as well as carry out engineering project management and implementation.
Officials said the estimated cost of the project proposed by MECON was Rs 129 crore for the first phase and Rs 126 crore for the second phase. The project cost was more than twice the value of the total assets of TTPL, the Kerala High Court had noted in its November 2023 order.
"More than Rs.120 Crores had already been spent by the Titanium Company (TTPL) for the pollution control projects proposed by MECON. But the plants could not be commissioned. In the meantime, MECON intimated to the Titanium Company in June 2007 that the project's total cost for Phase I and II escalated to Rs 414 Crores (Rs 225.8 Crores for Phase I and Rs 188.6 for Phase II).
"The additional amount required to complete the pollution control project, part of Phase I, was about Rs.160 Crores. The Titanium Company was unable to incur such a huge additional financial burden," the court noted.
It said the project conceived and implemented through MECON caused a loss of Rs 120 crore to without any corresponding benefit.
"The selection of MECON as a Project Management Consultant, the implementation of its recommendation without proper assessment of financial viability and technical feasibility and the placement of orders through MECON was part of a criminal conspiracy hatched at the highest level of administration in the State Government and by the officials of the Titanium Company and MECON," it said.
In its FIR, the CBI alleged MECON placed work orders for a Finland-based company Chematur Ecoplanning for Rs 258 crore without inviting a global tender. This violated the provisions of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee without Union Environment and Forest Ministry's sanction and violating Hazardous Waste Rules 1989.
Chematur was paid Rs 20 crore as an advance without obtaining a performance guarantee. Joseph and Bhaskaran received an undue pecuniary advantage for themselves and those who favour them, the agency alleged.
In an alleged criminal conspiracy, Joseph facilitated former chief commercial managers, TTPL Thomas Mathew and B. Gopakumaran Nair, to set up a namesake firm to "plunder the TTPL funds", in which they made themselves consultants and took consultancy charges, it said.