Odisha orders judicial probe into chit fund scam

Bhubaneswar, May 30 (IANS) The Odisha government Thursday ordered a judicial probe into an alleged chit fund scam in the state, an official said.

A commission of inquiry will be set up to probe the alleged fraud committed by various chit fund companies, including the Kolkata-based Saradha Group that went bust last month, the official said.

The group was running a ponzi scheme, and is estimated to have duped over 10 lakh people. The loss from that scam is estimated at around Rs.1,000 crore.

According to preliminary estimates, the loss from the Saradha Group scam in Odisha alone is about Rs.70 crore.

The inquiry panel will also investigate alleged frauds committed by several other firms, including Artha Tatwa (AT) and Seashore groups, the official said.

The Odisha High Court will be requested to spare the services of a sitting judge to head the probe, a senior official in the office of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told IANS.

The commission will be asked to submit its report in three months’ time. The panel will also suggest measures to safeguard the interests of genuine investors affected by the chit fund frauds, the official added.

Earlier last year, a probe was started into the alleged chit fund scam after several small investors complained that firms engaged in ponzi schemes collected huge amounts of money from them but later refused to pay back as promised.

The economic offence wing of the crime branch of Odisha Police was investigating the allegations.

Although police raided offices of several such companies and arrested a score of people for irregularities, the government came under heavy attack from opposition.

The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even questioned the integrity of the investigation and accused the government of protecting influential people involved in the crime.

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