The CBI on Thursday conducted simultaneous raids on the offices of the Astha International Ltd, a Surat-based chit fund company, at 14 places including four in Odisha.
In Berhampur, the CBI officials raided the residence of Subhranshu Lenka, the head of Astha Group’s Odisha branch while in Bhubaneswar, the raid is on at a rented house in Nageswar Tangi area where family members of Lenka are staying. CBI officials seized several documents and compact discs from the house. Some photographs of Lenka with some women were also seized. Reports said the raid is on in Surat, Goa, Indore and Jabalpur and Bhubaneswar, Jagatsinghpur, Angul and Berhampur in Odisha.
Lenka, along with Chandrasen Sivaji Chouhan, director of the company and Sapkale, another director of the company, are presently lodged in Jharpada Circle Jail in Bhubaneswar after their arrest in June 2013 by the Economic Offences Wing of State CID.
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In Odisha, the company has 8-10 branch offices in various places including Bhubaneswar, Berhampur, Balasore, Rourkela, Balugan and Keonjhar. Astha’s Subhransu Lenka had formed two money circulation companies – Vhance Multi Trade Private Limited and Vhance International Limited – in Bhubaneswar and diverted public money invested in Astha into these.
Astha collected over Rs 500 crore under three different schemes – money circulation, goat farming and beverage – from thousands of people between 2006 and 2012. Investors were lured with promises of returns of 25-30 per cent if they invest in those schemes. The company promised hefty returns of Rs 60,000 on the deposit of Rs 20,000 for four years. The company had also announced its intention to acquire 300 acre land in Berhampur for a Rs 500-crore integrated township project called ‘Astha City’. Notably, Lenka’s mother Sushma is a BJD zilla parishad member in Jagatsinghpur.
Meanwhile, senior BJD leader Damodar Rout on Wednesday demanded that CBI should not prolong its investigation into the chit-fund scam indefinitely.