In a major development, the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday arrested ruling Biju Janata Dal legislator and former Odisha chief whip Prabhat Tripathy for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore chit fund scam by state based Artha Tatwa (AT) group.
“Tripathy was arrested on charge of criminal conspiracy and allegations that he had received huge sum from AT group,” a CBI spokesperson said.
The arrest of Tripathy, who is party MLA from Banki, is a major setback to BJD. The party suspended him soon after CBI announced his arrest. Party spokesperson Sashibhushan Behera said Tripathy had so far cooperated the CBI and law would take its own course.
CBI has so far arrested eleven persons, including former Odisha advocate general Ashok Mohanty, three media house owners and a Mumbai based model for their alleged links with chit fund companies that are accused of swindling thousands of crores of rupees from gullible depositors.
Tripathy is the first politician to be arrested by the investigation agency.
The influential leader, perceived to be close to chief minister Naveen Patnaik before the general elections, was among the first to be interrogated by the CBI when the latter took over the investigation into the scam two months ago. After a few rounds of interrogations, Tripathy had moved the Orissa high court seeking anticipatory bail.
The court had granted him interim relief from arrest on September 30 and asked the investigating agency to submit before the court a forensic laboratory test report of voice recording of a conversation between Tripathy and AT group chief Pradeep Sethy.
After the CBI submitted the report, the court on October rejected Triapthy’s anticipatory bail plea on October 20. “I accept the honourable court’s direction and will decide on my future course of action after receiving a copy of the order. Not being granted anticipatory bail is not the end of legal process,” Tripathy had said.
Besides Tripathy, CBI has also interrogated some other ruling party politicians including a sitting MP and former MLA.
The chit fund scam in Odisha 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 Supreme Court against the scam allege that the scam by just two of the chit fund companies – AT group and Seasore group – might be more than Rs.20,000 crore.