Chit fund owner claims giving Rs 75 cr to politicians, scribes

Crime branch police put fraud involving AT group at Rs 130 crore

Chit fund owner claims giving Rs 75 cr to politicians, scribes

The chairman-and-managing director (CMD) of a prominent state-based chit fund company, who has been arrested by the Odisha police, has claimed that he had paid bribe to the tune of Rs 75 crore to journalists and a few state politicians, including legislators and a minister in the state cabinet, for protection.

Pradipt Sethi, the boss of Artha Tatwa (AT) group, was picked by the police on the outskirts of the capital city late on Sunday night. After a marathon questioning, he was produced before a local court here on Monday evening and has been sent to 14 days’ judicial custody.

He made the revelation in a brief encounter with the media while being produced in the court.

Sethi, who has been arrested on the basis of the complaints filed by thousands of depositors in police stations across the state, however, did not name the politicians and the journalist who had received money from him.

“I have told everything to police and deposited proofs. A detailed investigation would reveal everything”, he said adding, “I have become a victim of a conspiracy.” Sethi’s company which was dealing with finances as well as real estate had reportedly collected crores of rupees from depositors promising them hefty returns within a short period. However, a majority of the depositors were allegedly duped.

He has been absconding for a long time. However, after being arrested, he insisted that he was very much in the state capital and surrendered before the police. “Police did not arrest me”, he said.

The crime branch of the state police which has launched a massive crackdown on the private chit fund companies across the state has not yet officially reacted on Sethi’s claim. However, a CB sleuth involved in the anti-chit fund drive, said Sethi’s statement is being seriously examined. “It could be a name dropping exercise. Many a time, scamsters drop names to save their skins. However, his allegations are being seriously looked into”, the crime branch official.

Crime branch sources said the fraud involving the AT group could be up to Rs 130 crore. The economic offence wing of the CB has already sealed several offices of the group across the state. Apart from Sethi, cases have also been registered against 11 other persons connected with the tainted company.

All of them will be arrested soon, said a crime branch official. Though the crime branch had already arrested more than a hundred people in connection with the chit fund scam in the state during its raids across the state, it had not been able to nab the owners or senior officials of the companies involved in the fraudulent activities. Those arrested were mostly junior officials and agents. Sethi was the first big fish in the police net.

Meanwhile, an agent of a chit fund company currently under scrutiny of the crime branch has committed suicide in the tribal district of Mayurbhanj. This was the second such incident in the state after the chit fund scam came to the fore.

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