On Saturday CBI arrested a senior functionary of an Odisha-based chit fund company in connection with a multi-crore ponzi scam after finding him holed up inside a well at the back of his residence in Bhubaneswar.
After carrying out searches at 60 locations in Mumbai and Odisha, the agency zeroed in on Sambit Khuntia, director of Artha Tatwa group and a local level Congress leader, who has been evading arrest for nearly a month.
When the CBI team reached his Bhubaneswar residence on saturday morning, his wife and mother claimed that Khuntia was not at home, agency sources here said.
However, Khuntia’s luck ran out as the sleuths found him hiding in the well in the backyard of his house.
The searches were carried out also at the residence of TV serial producer Priti Bhatia and stock broker Deepak Parekh in Mumbai besides Behrampur, Balasor, and 54 places around Bhubaneshwar.
Parekh has allegedly obtained license from SEBI and MCX for Artha Tatwa group while Bhatia had started a media company along with Pradeep Sethi, Chairman cum Managing Director of the group, who has been arrested by CBI.
CBI sources said premises of Pravata Tripathy, BJD MLA, Ashirbad Behera, Orissa Cricket Association Secretary, Bikash Swain, owner of Surya Prabha newspaper, Manoj Dash, owner of Kamyab TV, Satyabrata Lenka and Sethi were searched.
The premises of Chandrika Patnaik, Radhakrishna Padhi, Jhuma Chakravorty, all directors of the chit-fund company, were also searched during the massive operations in which the agency claimed to have seized incriminating documents.
When contacted, Tripathy confirmed that CBI searches were being conducted at his premises but denied any involvement in the scam. “I don’t have any connection with the chit fund scam,” he said.
CBI officials said that his ancestral house in Khurda and two other places including his official residences at Cuttack and Bhubaneswar were being searched by the sleuths in connection with the chit fund scam.
CBI has alleged that the MLA “was taking protection money from some of the accused”, a charge denied by Tripathy.
Tripathy claimed he was being targeted as he had attended some of the meetings of chit fund companies when they were operating as cooperative societies.
Behera, on being contacted, refused to comment on the searches being carried out by CBI.
At least 44 chit fund companies in Odisha have been named in as many FIRs which were mentioned in the May 9 Supreme court order on a civil writ petition filed in 2013.