BHUBANESWAR: With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) focus back on politician-scamster nexus, Biju Janata Dal MLA Pravat Tripathy faced heat once again on Saturday for allegedly using his position to favour Artha Tatwa Group chief Pradeep Sethi bag the Best Youth Cooperator Award in 2010.
Tripathy was grilled for about an hour an a half on how Sethi was chosen for the State award within a span of 15 days of being nominated as chairman of Artha Tatwa Multi State Credit Cooperative Society.
The probe agency has in its possession the application submitted by AT Group for the award as well as records indicating how swiftly the Odisha State Cooperative Union (OSCU) responded to it. Tripathy was president of OSCU when Sethi bagged the award.
Sources said, the OSCU received the application for the award on November 9, 2010. The application reportedly mentioned that Sethi was nominated as Chairman of the multi-level cooperative society on November 3, just six days ago.
The OSCU, according to the sources, reverted to AT Group on November 12 stating that Sethi had been chosen for the award which would be given away during the All India Cooperative Week celebration. On November 17, Sethi received the award.
The probe agency, in its interrogation, wanted to know the selection process put in place by OSCU, an apex cooperative body. The former Government Chief Whip faced a volley of queries about the number of applications received by the panel, the eligibility criteria and recommendations made in favour of Sethi.
Since it was a State-sponsored recognition, Sethi had used the award for greater leverage in the financial market and to gain investors’ confidence. He not only put out advertisements, photographs of him receiving the award were also displayed across his offices to lure the depositors.
The CBI is stitching up the evidence to establish if Tripathy favoured Sethi by abusing his position which, in such an event, would make him a party to the frauds carried out by the AT Group chief.
The BJD legislator, however, put up a strong face. “The matter is under investigation and I am still not an accused,” he told mediapersons after stepping out of the CBI office.
“The CBI wanted to interrogate me about how AT Group was selected for the award by the cooperative union in 2010. I have provided all the information indicating the norms under which the selection panel chose Sethi,” he said.
This is for the fourth time that the Banki MLA has been interrogated by the CBI in connection with the chit fund scam investigation. With his anticipatory bail application already rejected by the Orissa High Court, the MLA is now defenceless. Besides, his voice samples have matched with that of the audio tape in which he was found talking to Sethi seeking funds for Banki Mahotsav.
Earlier in the day, two accountants of Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) appeared before the CBI. Shyama Prasad Rout and BK Swain were quizzed about the sponsorships the association had received and how the funds were used.
In a related incident, the Khurdha district sessions court on Saturday rejected the bail plea of Bikash Swain, proprietor of an Odia newspaper, who has been arrested in connection with the ongoing CBI probe into the chit fund scam. Swain was arrested by the CBI on September 5 for his alleged links with the AT Group.