Bail for DSP Panda in Odisha HC; no bail for Astha head

Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Cuttack, May 15:

The Odisha High Court today granted conditional bail to former Crime Branch DSP Pramod Panda in the case lodged against him by the CBI in for his alleged involvement in the Artha Tatwa (AT) Group, one of the major players in the mega chit fund scam in the state.

Susoended DSP Pramod Panda gets bail
Susoended DSP Pramod Panda gets bail

The court granted him bail on a bail bond of Rs 10 lakh and asked him to surrender his passport. In its order granting bail to Panda, the court also asked him to cooperate with the CBI in its investigation.

“The court granted bail after Panda furnished a bond of Rs 10 lakh,” said Debasis Panda, counsel for the suspended DSP.

The first Odisha police officer to be arrested in the Odisha mega chit fund case, Panda has been languishing in the Jharpada jail in Bhubaneswar since being arrested by the CBI on December 19 last year.

CBI had arrested Panda on charges of larger conspiracy and deriving undue financial benefits from AT group.

It may be mentioned that the CBI, in its charge sheet in the AT case, had mentioned Padnda’s close relations with AT Group CMD Pradeep Sethy.

During the course of its investigation, the CBI had stumbled upon evidence of his complicity with  the chit fund scam accused and AT group chief Pradeep Sethy. During a raid at his Bhadrak residence on November 18, the central agency had seized some crucial documents that pointed to financial transactions between him and the AT group.

The CBI had also got evidence of transfer of huge amounts of money from the AT group to a computer centre named ZICA run by Panda’s wife Gitanjali.

It was Panda again who had threatened Alok Jena, the petitioner in the chit fund case in the state. Jena had filed two FIRs against the former in New Delhi accusing him of intimidating him and threatening him with dire consequences if he did not withdraw his PIL in the Supreme Court.

While granting bail to Panada, the court, however, denied bail to Astha International’s Odisha head Subhransu Lenka, who was arrested in June 2013 for cheating investors in Odisha.

In April last year, the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of the Crime Branch had sought permission from the Finance department to attach properties of Astha International, embroiled in the multi-crore chit fund scam in Odisha.

The Surat-based company is facing allegations of duping depositors to the tune of over Rs 500 crore.

A case has been lodged against Astha International and Astha Goat Farming Ltd under Sections 420, 406, 467, 468, 471, 120(b) and 34 of Indian Penal Code.

The EOW has framed charges against Lenka under Sections 4, 5, 6 of Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act.

According to the enforcement agency, most of the company’s investors were from Brahmapur, Bhubaneswar and Baleswar.

Meanwhile, CBI sleuths today conducted searches in 26 different locations across India of the Silicon group of companies which is allegedly running chit fund operations. The Kolkata-based group is one of the 44 chit fund companies being probed by the CBI following directions of the Supreme Court.

“Searches were conducted at 26 locations, including 16 places in West Bengal, five places in Haryana, two each in Bihar and Jharkhand and one place in Odisha,” a CBI official said in Kolkata.

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