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Cops ‘delay’ scam probe

- Deposit collection inquiry hits data deficit hurdle
File picture of investors protesting against fake deposit collection companies in Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar, March 7: Investigation into the sham deposit-collection scam appears to have lost steam with police not co-operating with the inquiry. Despite several pleas by the finance department, the police have not been providing information about unauthorised collection of public deposits in the state.

“A commission of inquiry probing the Rs 4,375 crore scam, is pressing for submission of the information. But we are unable to provide it because of the non-availability of data. This will certainly affect the investigation process,” admitted a senior official of the finance department.

After the deposit collection scam surfaced, the state government appointed Justice R.K. Patra Commission to probe into the matter. The commission has so far received nearly nine lakh petitions on the scam. The fraud amount could be much more than the government estimates.

Sources said joint director, institutional finance, Sidhartha Kanungo has raised the question how the district superintendents of police, despite six reminders by the finance department, failed to provide information on unauthorised collection of public deposits.

“Three months have already passed, but we have not received the required information. The commission of inquiry is pressing hard for it,” Kanungo said in his letter.

The letter was issued to 19 district superintendents of police, deputy commissioner of police, Bhubaneswar, and the police superintendents of Berhampur and Rourkela.

Director-general of police Prakash Mishra said: “I am not aware of any such letter. I will react only after going through them if they have been received.”

When the scam surfaced, the state government instituted the commission of inquiry and had said that investors have been cheated of Rs 4,375 crore. The Opposition parties had maintained that nearly 20 lakh people had been cheated and the scam could touch nearly Rs 20,000 crore.

Following a furore, the government had also announced a corpus fund of Rs 300 crore to provide relief to small investors who had lost their money. It had also said that the cases would be tried in fast-track courts.

Even though the investigation has not gained the required momentum, the state government has maintained that it would not hand over the cases of fraud related to the money deposit collection cases to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) under the ministry of corporate affairs.

“As the commission has started inquiry, all should wait for it. The Crime Branch and other agencies inquiring into the role of the deposit collection companies are doing their best. We have also confiscated the properties of a number of companies,” said an official.

The state government said it had started confiscating properties of Sastra Enterprises Private Limited, Flourish India Development Private Limited, Safex Infra India Limited, Artha Tatwa, Sea Shore and Saradha Group.

The Congress has announced that it would make the deposit collection scam a major election plank. “Nearly 20 lakh people have been cheated. A number of ruling party members are involved in the scam. We will take the issue to the people,” said Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena.

BJP spokesperson Suresh Pujari said: “A scam of such magnitude would not have been possible without government patronage. The BJD is shedding crocodile tears on the issue. If the government is really interested in people getting justice, the case should be handed over to the CBI.”

However, an official said they were taking steps under the Odisha Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Establishment) Act, to protect the interests of small investors.


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