Cops probe media, builder links in Odisha chit fund scam

Last Updated: Mon, May 27, 2013 05:58 hrs

Bhubaneswar: Police in Odisha have begun investigations into allegations linking some mediapersons and builders with a chit fund group after prima facie that there were financial transactions between them, an official said Monday.

The commissionerate of police here is examining the bank accounts and other relevant documents of about 25 people, including some builders and media people, after Pradip Sethi, the head of Artha Tatwa (AT) group, who was arrested May 12, claimed he paid about Rs.36 crore to different people.

The AT group, a controversial non-banking financial institution (NBFI) having operations across the state, was allegedly collecting money from people promising them high returns.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Nitinjit Singh said police have registered several cases against Sethi on the basis of complaints lodged by as many as 60 people. Preliminary investigation has showed that his group allegedly duped investors to the tune of Rs.357 crore.

"We are examining the accounts of 20 to 25 people including those of some media people and builders. After collecting evidence, we will ask them to explain the source of the funds they received. If they do not provide a satisfactory explanation, we will arrest them," Singh told IANS.

The state government started a probe into the alleged chit fund scams last year, after many small investors complained that firms engaged in money circulation and chit fund activities collected huge amounts of money from them promising high returns, but later refused to pay the maturity amounts.

In September last year, the crime branch police raided offices of Safex Infra India Ltd at Berhampur, Chhatrapur and Bhubaneswar, on allegations that it was "illegally" collecting money from people on the promise of high returns.

Investigators had also raided the state offices of Seashore Group and Ashore Group in July and August, respectively, and had arrested many senior executives on similar charges, although the companies denied any wrongdoing.

Police also arrested at least 177 people in different parts of the state earlier this month for involvement in illegal money circulation and chit fund activities.

The crackdown on the firms intensified May 10, and about 200 offices of 84 companies were raided, Rajesh Kumar, deputy inspector general (economic offence wing) of the crime branch police said.

Among those arrested were two people linked to Kolkata-based Saradha Group, which went bust in April this year after running a ponzi scheme estimated to have duped over 10 lakh people. The loss from that scam is estimated at over Rs.1,000 crore.

Police started investigating into the activities of AT group after a retired police officer lodged a complaint with the police in Bhubaneswar Feb 7, saying that the group cheated him.

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