The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) intensified its crackdown on the multi-crore chit fund scam in Odisha, launching raids across 18 locations including on Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra’s house on Tuesday.
Before his fallout with chief minister Naveen Patnaik over allegations of hatching a plot to overthrow him, Mohapatra was seen as the person with the most influence in the state’s corridors of power.
Patnaik and his ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) are facing a tough challenge over the scam estimated by state police and crime branch to be as big as Rs 4,373 crore.
CBI offcials at Pyarimohan Mohapatra's house. (HT Photo/Arabinda Mahapatra)
Unofficially, the magnitude of the scam is suspected to be much bigger, as high as Rs 20,000 crore, with the Bhubaneswar-based Seashore Group being the biggest entity under the scanner.
The raids follow the arrest of three BJD leaders for their alleged involvement in the scam.
The CBI took Seashore CEO Prasant Dash on a 12-day remand on November 10.
The investigating agency had arrested MLA Prabhat Tripathy on October 31 and Mayurbhanj MP Ramachandra Hansda and former MLA Subarna Naik on November 4 for their alleged involvement in the scam. All three were suspended from the party.
CBI raid Rajya Sabha member and Odisha Jan Morcha president Pyarimohan Mohapatra's residence in Bhubaneswar. (HT Photo/Arabinda Mahapatra)
"The CBI has registered cases against 44 chit fund companies. If two BJD MLAs are booked in each case, the party is doomed," a senior party leader who did not want to be named said.
The CM has tried to distance the party from the recent arrestsin the case that is proving to be his toughest test since taking over as chief minister in 2000.
"It is a matter of individuals and nothing to do with the party or the government," Patnaik said recently.
Patnaik, however, will find it difficult to downplay the party’s role in the scam. Seashore Group has signed dozens of MoUs with the government in various sectors.
The opposition has gone all out to cash in on the arrests. "By the time the CBI completes the probe, several BJD leaders will go to jail and the party will collapse like a pack of cards," said Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Suresh Pujari.
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The crime branch and state police have filed 463 cases against 163 chit fund companies
Petitioners move SC demanding a CBI probe alleging irregularities in the investigation
SC initiates a CBI probe
26 people arrested by the CBI so far