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CBI arrests former Odisha advocate general in AT chit fund scam

In a major blow to the Naveen Patnaik government, former Advocate General of Odisha government, Ashok Mohanty was arrested today by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of misusing official position to corner personal benefits from a chit fund company.

Mohanty was under scanner for buying a house in Cuttack from Pradeep Sethy, chief of chit fund firm Artha Tatwa (AT) group, for an amount of Rs 1.01 crore.

During his interrogation on September 13 this year, a day after his resignation from the post of Advocate General, Mohanty was unable to provide satisfactory reply to CBI sleuths about the transaction related to the purchase of the house, particularly payment modes.

“I can say that I acted in good faith and the deal was bonafide. Truth will come out soon,” said Mohanty soon after his arrest. He has been produced before the special CBI court, where the central probe agency has requested to take him under remand for a period of three days.

Mohanty had purchased a two storied building on a plot measuring 4000 sq ft in Sector-11 in Bidanasi, Cuttack from Shethy in October, 2012. But the property was transferred to Mohanty’s name in March, 2013 when Sethy had already been declared “absconder” by court in cases related to chit fund scam.

Apart from modes of payment, Mohanty, during his interrogation, could not give satisfactory answers to the queries of CBI sleuths that instead of assisting police to trace Sethy, how could he let Sethy, who was a absconder in the eye of the law, to apply for transfer of the title of the property.

Sources said, Sethy had purchased the plot for Rs 1 crore from Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra, currently the Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court, who had been allotted the land by the Cuttack Development Authority (CDA) under discretionary quota system in 2007.

The deal between Mohanty and Sethy had raised eyebrows as the then advocate general had to pay just Rs 1000 more (than the price paid by Sethy to own the property) to get the land and house, as per the sale deed. However, earlier this month, Mohanty said, he had paid Rs 1 lakh premium and not just Rs 1,000 as reported in the media.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) reacted sharply to the arrest, alleging that the CBI is engaged in publicity stunt.

“I know Mohanty for a long period of time. There was no need for CBI to arrest him. It seems CBI is doing all this just to stay in newspapers every day,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, Lok Sabha BJD MP from Cuttack.

Mohanty had been advocate general of the state government since 2004, until his resignation in May 17, when the third term of Naveen Patnaik ended. However, his resignation was accepted only on September 12.

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