Covid-19 +ve BJD MLA in home isolation raided by CBI over ponzi scam
The Seashore scam has remained a major source of embarrassment for the Naveen Patnaik government after the CBI found that several senior IAS, IPS and BJD leaders were involved in it.Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 16:16 IST
Coronavirus positive senior BJD MLA Debi Prasad Mishra was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday over his alleged involvement in Rs 578 crore Seashore chit fund scam.
A five-member team of the CBI, along with two witnesses, took part in the raid that is being conducted at seven places. The probe agency, in August 2016, has already interrogated Mishra’s two associates -Prafulla Singha, a BJD leader, and Dilip Mishra.
Seashore is one of the 44 companies that is being investigated by the CBI since May 2014, following a Supreme Court order. The company reportedly raised around Rs 578 crore from gullible people offering 36 per cent interest per annum to the investors against their deposits.
Mishra, former school and mass education minister under home isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, said the CBI officials asked him about the boating project of Seashore on Mahanadi river which was allowed during his tenure as tourism minister.
“I had allowed Seashore to set up a boating project in Mahanadi along with a restaurant on the outskirts of Cuttack city. Besides, I had also given permission to the company to manage a government-run guest house at Atri in Khurda district. All this was allowed as per the government’s decision. I have already appeared before the CBI and been interrogated in this matter,” he said, adding that CBI officials have taken all files from the department.
In September 2017, the CBI had arrested the then BJD MLA Prabhat Biswal in connection with the Seashore ponzi scam. He was later released on bail in June 2018.
The CBI has filed two charge-sheets before a Bhubaneswar-based CBI court - March 2015 and January 2018 - accusing Seashore chief Prashant Dash and his brother Prabhat of embezzling about Rs 578.2 crore, collected from investors between 2006 and 2011. The case is now being tried. The ED is also separately probing the Seashore group’s financial transactions.
The Seashore scam has remained a major source of embarrassment for the Naveen Patnaik government after the CBI found that several senior IAS, IPS and BJD leaders were involved in it. Operating through one Subhankar Nayak, the company allegedly paid illegal gratification to some IAS, IPS officers of Odisha and BJD leaders for expanding its business. Nayak was earlier arrested and sent to jail in November 2014.
The company also gained access to Saroj Sahoo, a one-time DTP operator who worked in Naveen Niwas and allegedly played an important role in the regional party. In September 2017, the CBI arrested erstwhile BJD MLA Prabhat Biswal in connection with the scam.
Seashore was started in 2006 by Prashant Dash, an economics professor in a private college in Angul district, with the company raising capital from public without listing itself in stock exchange, mandatory if the number of shareholders cross 50.
It also registered some of its firms under the Odisha Self Help Cooperative Societies Act that allowed it to remain out of the government’s checks and balances.
To attract customers, the company offered 36 per cent interest per annum to the investors against their deposits, which was nearly four times the rates offered by nationalised banks.
The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau in February and March 2011 had alerted the Odisha government on how the company was collecting a huge amount of money from investors assuring them of high returns. The commission being paid to agents ranged from 15 to 20 per cent. Using his proximity to former BJD strongman Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, Dash entered into a clutch of partnerships with state government in healthcare, tourism, dairy, pharma, food processing and cooperative sector, it said.
Most of these partnerships did not help the government as Seashore never had the requisite expertise and know-how to run the new business. In 2012, it signed an MoU with Grid Corporation of Odisha, a bulk power supplier for purchase of solar power from the firm.
However, the agreement fell through after Seashore had failed to pay the bank guarantee of Rs 24 crore within the stipulated time. Like Saradha which ran a TV channel in Bengal, Seashore too started a TV channel, STV, in Odisha.
It reportedly recruited the wife of a senior IPS officer for an astrological show at a huge cost to the company. Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif graced the inauguration of the TV channel in May 2011.