At least 20 lakh people have lost money estimated to be over Rs 10,000 cr by investing in 174 chit fund firms.
Bhubaneswar: The credibility of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has sunk low in Odisha as it has failed to nail the key culprits involved in a mega chit fund scam. Though “clinching evidence” has been provided by approvers against several top rung leaders of the ruling BJD, why the agency has nearly stopped its investigation has surprised many investors.
Ponzi firm Artha Tatwa Group has allegedly swindled the investors of Rs 500 crore, while Seashore Group has looted nearly Rs 1500 crore.
According to Justice M.M. Das Commission of Inquiry, at least 174 chit fund firms have collected nearly Rs 10,000 crore from 20 lakh investors.
Apart from arresting top BJD politicians, including Mayurbhanj MP Ramachandra Hansda, Banki MLA Pravat Tripathy and Choudwar MLA Pravat Ranjan Biswal, whose names have come up in Artha Tatwa Group scam, the CBI has discontinued grilling other suspects named in the case.
What’s more, the CBI has allegedly slowed down proceedings against top politicians, Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, journalists and other influential persons whose names surfaced in the scam.
However, despite the approvers naming them time and again before the CBI sleuths, some former ministers of the Naveen Patnaik government have so far managed to elude arrest.
The CBI, meanwhile, has served a notice to former minister Sanjay Das Burma to appear before it for his alleged links with Artha Tatwa Group.
The agency also arrested two Trinamool Congress MPs — Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Paul — for their alleged links with Rose Valley Group that operates in Odisha. Besides, it had also brought to Odisha on remand Sudipto Ray, chairman of Saradha Group.
Though the probe agency questioned four IPS officers — Rajesh Kumar, Satish Gajbhiye, R.P. Koche and Sanjeeb Panda — between 2014 and 2016 for their alleged links with Seashore chief Prashant Dash, some other influential IAS and IPS officers continue to enjoy CBI immunity, the investors alleged.
The agency’s “mysterious” approach in handling the chit fund scam and bringing all the culprits to book has frustrated some of the approvers.
Tapan Mohanty, one of the key approvers, has alleged “deliberate dithering” by the CBI on the issue. He threatened to approach the Supreme Court if the latter does not arrest the high and mighty politicians whom he had named. Mr Mohanty has alleged that the BJD politicians were given huge cash incentives and gifted costly luxury SUVs to extend their patronage to the chit fund firms.
In a letter to the superintendent of police, CBI, Bhubaneswar, Mr Mohanty has said though he has named some top politicians of the ruling BJD, including some powerful former ministers, and provided “clinching evidence” against them, the CBI has not yet grilled any of them so far.
“I had given a list of some ex-ministers, MLAs and other influential persons to the CBI along with details of money and luxury vehicles received by them from Artha Tatwa Group. But, surprisingly, the CBI is silent on this. I have recently petitioned the SP, CBI, Bhubaneswar, seeking the probe process to be speeded up. If the CBI does not do the justice, we would surely approach the SC,” Mr Mohanty told this newspaper. Subhankar Nayak, a fixer, arrested on November 18, 2014 by the CBI for facilitating money between the chit fund firms and influential persons, had also mentioned the names of some officers in his diaries. The diaries are still in the possession of the CBI.
In one of the four diaries seized from him by the CBI, Mr Nayak has mentioned the names of four SPs, one deputy inspector general of police, two district collectors and several politicians who were paid by the Seashore Group to protect the illegal money circulation business. The CBI has submitted excerpts from the diary in the court of special chief judicial magistrate (CBI) on November 18, 2016.
In one of his diaries seized by CBI, Mr Nayak has mentioned details of the amount paid by the Seashore Group to various persons, including former SPs of Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Balasore; former DIG (Sambalpur) and district collector (Sambalpur), said the search list.
In another diary, he has mentioned names of IAS officers, IPS officers, MPs and MLAs, as the beneficiaries. “Despite having such clinching evidence, the CBI has not gone beyond the customary questioning. None of the preliminary or interim charge-sheets submitted by the CBI in Bhubaneswar court has mentions the culprits,” said an approver.