NEW DELHI: The CBI has closed its inquiry into alleged irregularities in allocation of offshore mining rights to companies for exploring minerals in the seabed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. Last September, CBI had started a probe into alleged favours extended to companies by unknown officials of the Indian Bureau of Mines while awarding licences for the country’s first-ever attempt to explore untapped mineral wealth lying in the seabed.

CBI sources said it closed the inquiry as the matter was already under ‘judicial scrutiny’ and prima facie nothing malafide was found. They said they had given their recommendation to the Indian Bureau of Mines in this regard.

Sources, however, said in case the high courts, where the cases are going on, direct the agency to carry out a thorough probe, it will proceed with it. It was alleged that four beneficiary companies owned by family members of an Indian Revenue Service officer were under the agency’s scanner as they bagged nearly half of the blocks despite lacking necessary qualification, they said.

The sources claimed government had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28 were awarded to companies owned by family members of the IRS officer, who had also served in the mines ministry. Each block measuring about 800 sq km is estimated to have huge unexplored mineral wealth in the seabed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.

The final award of licences had been put on hold after aggrieved parties approached the Bombay High Court and the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking their cancellation. It was also alleged that companies were incorporated after bids were invited from interested parties willing to go for exploration but did not have any experience in offshore mining at the time of notification.