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Odisha chit fund scam: Meandering CBI probe raises suspicion


Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Oct 20:

The much hyped CBI inquiry into the mega Odisha chit fund scam, which appears to have gotten into meandering mode, has raised serious doubts in the minds of affected depositors and the public at large.

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For weeks, the Central agency has chosen to focus on the financial fraud of the Artha Tatwa Group (AT Group) and this has been an unduly protracted affair. And the only biggie that they have been able to interrogate in the process is Pravat Tripathy, a senior BJD MLA. But going by hard facts, even this leader has been granted a long rope by the CBI.

The CBI has so far rounded up a little known BJD politician Ranjan Dash, three media owners and a Mumbai-based model Preeti Bhatia- who was subjected to five rounds of interrogation -and tried in vain to create an impression that its investigation is on course.

However, for mysterious reasons, it has shied away from targeting the Seashore Group, a major chit fund operator which allegedly has direct links with the ruling Biju Janata Dal, its top leadership as well as the powerful babus of the Naveen Patnaik government.

No wonder this has raised suspicion in many quarters and provoked the original petitioner in the Supreme Court Alok Jena to cry foul and demand direct monitoring by the apex court.

Observers see two possible reasons why the CBI is going slow on Seashore Group’s financial fraud. One, it’s possible that the ruling BJD has struck a political deal with the Modi government at the Centre by promising unqualified support to the NDA government provided its top leaders and babus are granted immunity from the CBI’s chit fund probe.

But it’s the second possibility that has a sinister angle to it.

According to some sources, the ‘snail pace’ and the ‘play safe’ approach of the CBI probe into the Odisha chit fund scam is linked to the appointment of the next director of the CBI.

The sources claim a senior CBI official, who is eyeing the coveted post, is in touch with the political bosses and their loyal bureaucrats in Odisha and has allegedly promised them ‘safe passage’ in the chit fund probe if they help him by creating hurdles for a former Odisha DGP, who is  a formidable rival and a frontrunner for the top CBI post.

The observers say there is a great need for the apex court to review the progress of the CBI probe into the Odisha chit fund scam and inquire into the reasons behind the Central agency beating around the bush and its reticence over targeting the  ponzi firms that has the direct involvement of the biggies in Odisha politics and administration.