Bhubaneswar: The CBI on Thursday carried out searches at 36 locations in Odisha including the premises of a BJD MP, an MLA and a close aide of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in connection with the Seashore Group Ponzi scam, even as the ruling party hit the streets slamming the move as a pre-Panchayat poll stunt.
The places raided by teams of the central investigating agency included houses of Lok Sabha MP from Balasore Rabindra Jena, Choudwar-Cuttack MLA Prabhat Biswal and Saroj Sahu, office staff of Naveen Nivas, the residence of the Chief Minister, sources said.
While raids were conducted at over five premises of Jena at Balasore, the CBI team raided Biswal’s government quarters in MLA Colony in Bhubaneswar and his house at Mahanadi Vihar locality in Cuttack, they said.
The house of Saroj Sahu, considered as close to the Chief Minister, was also raided by the agency sleuths in Palaspalli area here, sources said adding, Sahu had been interrogated by the CBI in November 2014, in connection with the Seashore Group Ponzi scam.
Search operations were also carried out at the houses of some hotel owners, Seashore Group officials and some other “important” persons in different places, they said.
The exercise was aimed at ascertaining the exact nature of links these people had with the Seashore Group, which is accused of duping investors of huge amounts.
Jena, an industrialist-turned-politician, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Balasore in 2014, had been grilled by the CBI in connection with his alleged role in the Seashore chit fund scam, they said.
Similarly, the central probe agency had also interrogated Biswal several times in 2014, while his wife Laxmi Bilasini Biswal was also grilled by the CBI recently.
Stating that he was extending full cooperation to the CBI in its probe, Biswal said the agency had earlier questioned his wife over a land deal and they sought more information on the matter today.
Strongly opposing the raids as a stunt to drive political gains for the BJP ahead of the ensuing Panchayat polls in the state, BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said: “It is part of a political conspiracy aimed at benefiting BJP.”
Noting that the raids were being conducted on the premises of leaders who had been questioned by the CBI more than two years ago, Deb said the sudden move shows that BJP was desperate as its popularity and support base had nosedived in Odisha.
Meanwhile, a large number of youths and student activists of the ruling BJD staged a demonstration in front of the CBI office here in protest against raids conducted at the premises of ruling party leaders.
Claiming that the operation was carried out at the behest of BJP leader and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Biju Yuva Janata Dal (BYJD) General Secretary, Bijay Nayak and president of the party’s student wing, Chinmay Sahu led the protest.
The demonstrators also burnt an effigy of Pradhan.
The Congress termed as an “eyewash” the raids, and said if the premier probe agency was really serious, they should have directly interrogated Naveen Patnaik, instead of raiding the house of his aide.
The agency has already filed charge sheet against the CMD of Seashore Group of companies Prashant Kumar Dash and others, the sources added.
The case is part of 44 FIRs registered in connection with the chit fund scam on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2014.