Odisha association to return chit fund money

The Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) has offered to return the state government the money it had received from Artha Tatwa (AT) group, a tainted chit fund company which is under investigation by the Bhubaneswar Police and the state crime branch.

Several officials of the company, including its chairman-cum-managing director Pradip Sethi, have already been arrested.

“We are prepared to return the government Rs 1 crore that we had received from AT group, provided we get an assurance that the money would be paid to the people who had invested in the tainted company,” OCA general secretary Ashirbad Behera told reporters here.

Behera was one of the 22 people summoned by the Bhubaneswar Police for questioning, after investigations revealed that they had financial dealings with the AT group and Sethi. He was interrogated at a city police station here late on Wednesday evening.

Sources in the city police said Behera admitted that the OCA had received Rs 1 crore in four cheques of Rs 25 lakh each from AT group towards sponsorship for the state cricket team and the Odisha Premier League. A part of the money was also spent to hire former Australian cricketer Michael Bevan to coach the Odisha Ranji Trophy squad a few years ago.

“Our financial dealings with AT group were clean and transparent. We have documents to support this. We were not aware that the company was funding us from the money it had raised from the public,” Behera reportedly told interrogators.

The police have also questioned owners of two local newspapers, who had allegedly received lakhs of rupees from the chit fund company. They claimed to have received the money for advertisements published in the papers.

“All the 22 people are yet to be interrogated. We are scrutinising the statements made by those who have already been questioned. Action will be decided soon,” said a senior police officer.           

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