Pravat Tripathy and Ashirbad Behera
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 16: The CBI today raided houses and offices of several people, including BJD’s high-profile MLA Pravat Tripathy for their alleged links with the Artha Tatwa (AT) Group, a money circulation company, which has been accused of duping thousands of investors in and outside the state.
Tripathy is the third ruling party leader, who has come under the CBI scanner after Mayurbhanj MP Ramchandra Hansda and former Keonjhar MLA Subarna Nayak. The agency raided the houses of Hansda, Nayak and former BJP MLA Hitesh Bagarti on July 31 for their alleged involvement with Naba Diganta Capital Service Limited, another money deposit company. All the three were the founder directors of the company.
Odisa Cricket Association (OCA) secretary Ashirbad Behera’s office and residence, too, were raided. Twenty-five teams of the CBI conducted raids at 58 places across the state, including AT Group’s chief Pradeep Sethy in Berhampur. The premises of a TV serial producer and a stockbroker in Mumbai, too, were raided.
The raids on Tripathy’s houses in Banki and Cuttack have raised eyebrows. He is one of the front bench leaders of the party.
During the earlier regime, he was the BJD’s chief whip in the Assembly and is a prominent face of the party. On major issues, the four-time MLA from Banki articulates the party’s point of view to the media.
Sources said the central agency had seized several documents and a CD from his house. The documents included papers pertaining to one acre, which he had purchased in his wife’s name and also his bank account papers. The CD, sources said, contained what was purported to be a conversation between Tripathy and AT Group’s chief Sethy.
Tripathy told The Telegraph: “I have no financial links with the company. The AT Group was working in the field of co-operative sector. I am a leading activist in the field. That’s why my name has been dragged. The CBI has not found any incriminating documents. Let them finish their investigation. I am clean.”
Behera said: “The AT Group had sponsored the logo of Odisha Premier League Match held in 2010-11. The company had given Rs 1 crore to the OCA in four checques. The money included the fees of the Michael Bevan, who had come to promote cricket in Odisha. Bevan was the coach of the state’s senior cricket team. We have shown them all the relevant papers and they are satisfied with our records.”
Among others, whose houses were raided included that of some of the directors of the company, a real estate owner, a chartered accountant and BJD rebel leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra’s close confidant Jagneswar Babu.
The AT Group has allegedly duped thousands of depositors by fraudulently collecting nearly Rs 750 crore from investors’ market in three years (2010-2012).
Police, which had initially investigated the case before the CBI took charge, submitted three proposals for property attachment of the company.
The first phase of property attachment was to the tune of Rs 150 crore. The second phase property list included movable and immovable assets wroth of Rs 200 crore. Similarly, the third phase property attachment included properties worth Rs 60 crore. The properties, which are sought to be seized, include 200 acres in the name of the company at several locations across the state and the company’s 100 flats, including 32 in Calcutta.
The police had also seized 11 vehicles of Sethy, who has a fancy for luxury vehicles. The vehicles included a Jaguar car worth more than Rs 1 crore and a Suzuki Intruder worth Rs 15 lakh.
Besides it is alleged that Sethy had also distributed a number of luxury vehicles to influential persons.
Against the company, the police have registered 26 cases, including two in Bhubaneswar. The police said the first case against the group was registered in February 2013 — which led to arrest of chairman-cum-managing director of the company Pradeep Sethy in May last year. The police had also nabbed six other functionaries of the company in due course of time.