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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Odisha: Expelled from BJD, MLA held in job scam

“Evidence has come to light that Panigrahy collected money on behalf of Akash, falsely promising jobs in Tata to people,” a Crime Branch official said.

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty | Bhubaneswar | Updated: December 4, 2020 6:56:49 am
In first complaint to Lokayukta, Odisha CM refers case against expelled BJD MLAPradeep Panigrahy was expelled from BJD days after the state Vigilance Department arrested senior Forest Service officer Abhay Pathak and his son for allegedly amassing assets disproportionate to their income.

The Odisha Crime Branch on Thursday arrested Gopalpur MLA Dr Pradeep Panigrahy for allegedly collecting money on behalf of Akash Pathak on the pretext of providing jobs to people.

Pathak and his father Abhay Kant Pathak, a senior IFS officer, were arrested by the state vigilance department on charges of amassing disproportionate assets five days ago. On Sunday, the BJD expelled Panigrahy for “anti-people activities”. Panigrahy’s daughter was to marry Akash, who was under probe for impersonating as a Tata Motors top executive and cheating people on the pretext of providing jobs.

“Evidence has come to light that Panigrahy collected money on behalf of Akash, falsely promising jobs in Tata company to people,” Crime Branch officials said.

Panigrahy, known to be close to Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik, has alleged that he was a victim of a conspiracy since he had raised disturbing questions before the Chief Minister about the state of affairs in Odisha and had alleged Covid mismanagement in Ganjam. He denied any involvement in the recruitment scam.

“I have been in touch with the CM over Covid-19 mismanagement on multiple occasions. This did not go down well with many other leaders,” he told the media.

“My family knew Pathak since he was DFO in Ganjam district. The engagement of my daughter and Akash was held on May 7 and marriage has been fixed for December 11. Both families had met the Chief Minister and he had blessed them. There is nothing to hide,” he said. He also denied financial links with the Pathaks.

The BJD said the MLA was spending taxpayers’ money for his extravagant lifestyle. “At a time when the situation was grim in Ganjam due to Corona, people were dying, Covid Warriors were serving day and night to save lives, Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi was enjoying with his family in a five-star hotel by lavishly spending Rs 2.5 lakh a day,” alleged BJD spokesperson Lenin Mohanty in a press statement.

Panigrahy was under the scanner ever since Pathak’s son Akash was booked for impersonating as a top executive of Tata Motors and cheating people. The Crime Branch and State Vigilance department are probing alleged financial transactions in the recruitments.

The State Vigilance, during its raid, had found Rs 9.4 crore in the bank accounts of Akash of which Rs 8.4 crore was made in cash deposits at Bhubaneswar. Another Rs 70 lakh was deposited in Ganjam. Both the IFS officer and his son were arrested by the Odisha state vigilance department on Saturday.

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