The Central Vigilance Commission has asked Central Bureau of Investigation to 'check' allegations of favours received by oil regulator V K Sibal from Reliance Industries for approving near four-fold hike (to $8.8 billion) in expenditure for gas field, a charge he denies.
CVC secretary K S Ramasubban on October one wrote to the CBI director Ashwani Kumar seeking 'a discreet field verification' on the allegations of RIL purchasing flats in Mumbai for Sibal's daughter and incurring expenses over purchase of white goods for her.
Sibal, who has been favoured by oil ministry for a two-year extension beyond October, questioned the move saying as per CVC guidelines no new charges can be entertained against an official six months prior to his or her extension. The allegations, he said, were to 'blackmail' CVC into denying him an extension.
No comments could be obtained from either CVC or CBI.
"I am upset not because I may be denied an extension but because the 2005 allegations are being raised by just one corporate house which has a conflicting interest (with RIL), to tarnish my image at a time when my case for extension is under consideration," he said.
It was also alleged that his daughters used RIL guest houses in Mumbai during 2005 and 2006, when Sibal approved increase in capital expenditure of RIL's KG-D6 field from $2.4 billion to $8.8 billion.
"The allegations are serious and, if substantiated, they would raise doubts about the integrity and objectivity of Sibal," said the CVC letter, copies of which were also marked to Cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar.
Rubbishing the allegations, Sibal said neither he nor his daughter own any property in Mumbai.
"I have not done any favours to RIL. People don't understand that DGH does not approve any expenditure. We only approve development plan for a field with a view to look at its economic viability," he said. "I have not taken any favours from RIL or anyone else."
He said the $8.8 billion field development plan for RIL's eastern offshore KG-D6 field has been validated by two independent experts and has been ranked the 'most cost effective' by Goldman Sachs.
Sibal said one of his daughters did use RIL's guest house in Mumbai for a couple of weeks in July 2005 when her home in Kalina was flooded, as were most parts of the city.
The DGH has been under attack from Anil Ambani group firm RNRL -- which is fighting a bitter battle over gas with RIL -- for alleged haste shown in approval of RIL's KG-D6 capex increase.
"Why is that only one corporate group is raising these allegations (of approving gold-plated capex). There is no one else in the industry who says that KG-D6 capex is gold plated. It is one of the lowest among 32 similar development projects world over," he said.