Chit-fund scam: Police summon Odisha Cricket Association secretary

Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) secretary Ashirbad Behera, considered to be a powerful individual, is one of the 22 people who have been summoned by the Bhubaneswar Police for questioning in connection with a mult-crore chit-fund scam in the state.

Notices have already been served to all 22 people, and they have been asked to appear before the police at a city police station on Tuesday and Wednesday. Police sources said that these people would be interrogated mainly for their alleged direct and indirect involvements and dealings with Artha Tatwa (AT) group, a tainted state-based chit-fund company whose chairman-cum-managing director Pradip Sethi is already behind the bars.

Besides Behera, the 21 others to be questioned by the police included businessmen, a couple of producers of Odiya films, builders and even owners of a small Odiya newspaper and local TV news channel that have been wound up.

However, Behera has clarified that he had no personal links with the AT group, but OCA did. In 2011, during the first edition of the OCA-floated Odisha Premier League(OPL) — an IPL-like annual cricketing event — the AT group had been given the franchise of one of the teams. The franchise system has now been abolished, and this year the tournament was organised by OCA on its own.

The AT group had also once sponsored the state cricket teams at different levels, and had paid the OCA Rs 1 crore.

No politician’s name has figured in the list of the 22 individuals summoned by the police for questioning. This has prompted critics of the Naveen Patnaik government to allege that the administration was trying to protect the ruling-party leaders involved in the multi-crore scam. However, police sources do not rule out the possibility of politicians getting similar summons in the near future. The state government has announced a judicial probe by a sitting high court judge into the scam. However, the Congress, the principal opposition party in the state, has demanded a probe by the CBI.

A section of the state unit of the BJP, the ruling BJD’s erstwhile ally, has demanded inquiry into the scam by a special investigation team.

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