Ashirbad Behera, former secretary of Odisha Cricket Association and Odisha Olympic Association, was arrested by CBI on Thursday morning over his alleged involvement in the Artha Tatwa chit fund scam.
Behera, (74), who had to step down and leave the post of secretary of Odisha Cricket Association in 2016 after 16 years of helming it, was picked up by CBI sleuths from his residence in Cuttack early in the morning. He was arrested after an hour of questioning.
CBI SP Jay Narayan Rana said they arrested Behera on the basis of a non-bailable warrant issued by a CBI court where Behera and others are scheduled to undergo trial in the Artha Tatwa chit fund scam. Kamala Kanta Das, a hotel owner in Bhubaneswar, was arrested along with Behera in the same case.
“You all know what the motive behind my arrest is,” Behera told reporters after his arrest. His son Sanjay Behera alleged that the arrest was a conspiracy against his father ahead of the Odisha Cricket Association elections. “Our opponents are trying to put pressure on us ahead of the Odisha Cricket Association election. We will definitely file the nomination papers on Friday and win the election,” he said.
Last month, CBI had filed a supplementary chargesheet against Behera alleging that as secretary of Odisha Cricket Association he entered into a criminal conspiracy with Artha Tatwa chit fund company to raise its credibility in the eyes of general public and get more people invested in the different schemes floated by it.
The CBI chargesheet alleged that Behera received Rs 1 crore from the Artha Tatwa Group which he showed as sponsorship money of the Odisha Ranji Cricket Team and title sponsorship of Odisha Premier League, 2011.
The Artha Tatwa group led by Pradeep Sethy had collected around Rs 500 crore from small investors Odisha with a promise of high returns ranging from 15 to 20 per cent. But a few years after the schemes started, hundreds of investors realised that they had been taken for a ride following which they lodged FIRs against the company. It is among the 44 chit fund companies in Odisha that are being probed by CBI since last 5 years.
Behera in December 2017 was charged under Prevention of Money Laundering Act by the Enforcement Directorate for encroaching premium government land near Barabati Stadium of Cuttack for his own interests. In June 2017, the CBI registered a case against Behera and raided the office of Odisha Olympic Association and his residence in connection with the alleged financial irregularities and land-grabbing case.
Nearly 23 shops and a marriage hall—Barabati Palace—were constructed on encroached government land. Behera’s son Sanjay Behera, whose firm Incon Associates constructed a marriage mandap and several business establishments on the encroached land has also been named in the FIR.
A controversial sports administrator known for his dubious records in sports administration, he had to leave the post of secretary of Odisha Cricket Association in 2016 after 16 years of heading it following justice Lodha Committee’s recommendation of limiting the age of cricket association office bearers to 70 years. He is also under CBI scanner over OCA allowing 36 junior cricketers play under-19 cricket matches forging their dates of birth certificates.
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