The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested a Mumbai-based model and television producer, Preeti Bhatia, for her involvement in the multi-crore chit fund scam by state based Artha Tatwa (AT) group.
Bhatia was arrested after being interrogated five times over a period of a month at the CBI’s Bhubaneswar office for her alleged links with AT group chief Pradeep Sethy.
“Bhatia has been arrested in the AT case in Odisha. Funds from AT group were diverted to her company account, personal account and accounts of relatives without any valid reasons,” a spokesperson for the central probe agency said.
In August, the CBI had raided Bhatia’s premises in Mumbai. Bhatia and Sethy are directors of a Mumbai-based company Prism Heights Films and Entertainment Private Limited that is said to focus on production of television serials.
The CBI has so far arrested seven people, including former Odisha advocate general Ashok Mohanty and three media house owners, for their alleged links with AT group that is accused of swindling more than Rs.700 crore from gullible depositors.
It has also interrogated some politicians including Biju Janata Dal MLA and former state chief whip Prabhat Tripathy.
Tripathy is on an anticipatory bail from the Orissa high court, while Mohanty was granted bail by a Bhubaneswar court four days after his arrest.
The chit fund scam in Odisha is said to be worth thousands of crores of rupees. It came to light two years back after many depositors complained that several chit fund companies had cheated them of their hard earned money after promising high returns on their deposits.
The Odisha government had ordered a probe into the scam by the state police. In May this year, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to probe the scam.
The CBI has registered 44 cases against equal number of chit fund companies in Odisha. AT group and Seashore group are among the biggest companies.
Activists, who moved the SC against the scam, allege that it might be worth more than Rs. 20,000 crore by just two of the chit fund companies – AT group and Seashore group.