Bhubaneswar: Barely four days after his expulsion from the ruling BJD on the charge of “anti-people” activities, Gopalpur MLA Pradip Panigrahi was on Thursday arrested for allegedly defrauding people promising them jobs, and sent to jail.
The Crime Branch sleuths picked up Panigrahi from his residence without any prior notice and took him to an undisclosed destination.
He was arrested after being interrogated in a fraud case relating to illegal collection of money from unemployed youths in Ganjam district, police said.
“CID, CB of Odisha Police today arrested Sri Pradip Kumar Panigrahi, Hon’ble MLA Gopalpur Assembly constituency in Cyber police station case no 26/2020,” a statement issued by the Crime Branch said.
He was later produced before the court of Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) which sent him to 14 days judicial custody.
Accused of collecting money in the name of providing jobs in a private company on behalf of Akash Kumar Pathak, son of suspended Forest officer Abhay Kant Pathak, the Gopalpur lawmaker has been booked under section 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (Cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security, will) and 120-B (conspiracy) among others along with Section 66- c/ 66-d of IT Act, 2000, the statement said.
Panigrahis wife Sujata claimed that the life of her husband is in danger.”Some people came to our official residence in Unit-6 area and picked up my husband and took him to an undisclosed location. There is no FIR against my husband or any notice served to him,” she alleged.
As Sujata raised an alarm after not finding her husband at the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) office, Bhubaneswar, where Panigrahi was supposed to be taken, the Crime Branch in a Twitter post confirmed that “Hon’ble MLA Dr.Pradip Kumar Panigrahi is being questioned in connection with CID CB Cyber Crime PS case no 26/2020.”
Panigrah was earlier accused of shielding Abhay Kant Pathak and his son Akash Kumar Pathak, who have been in judicial custody after being arrested in a disproportionate case.
Panigrahi’s daughter was scheduled to marry Akash Kumar Pathak on December 11, Sujata said.
Alleging that her husband was picked up by police in an improper manner, Sujata asked, “Is my husband a Naxalite? He was picked up and taken to an undisclosed location without any FIR against him.”
She said, “My husband is being harassed and tortured due to political vendetta. If something wrong happens to my husband, I will drag all to the court and the chief minister as the home minister will be responsible for my husband’s safety.”
The BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had expelled Panigrahi from primary membership of the party for “anti-people activities” on November 29.
Panigrahi, a three-time MLA and a former minister, was once very close to Patnaik and even worked as his representative in the Hinjili assembly constituency in Ganjam district held by the BJD president since 2000.
Sujata, however, said that a section of leaders in the ruling BJD were conspiring against her husband for the last two years.
“They have been trying to break my husband’s close relationship with the chief minister,” Sujata said.
Meanwhile, the anti-corruption vigilance department has detected further cash deposits of Rs 1.28 crore in the bank accounts of Akash Kumar Pathak at Bhubaneswar and Pune, a senior official said.
Thus, the total deposited amount in his three bank accounts till the date of search operations on November 25 has gone up to Rs 16.05 crore, he said.
“Out of this, the cash deposit amount is Rs 10.76 crore. Besides, Bank accounts and insurance policies of Akash Kumar Pathak have been traced at Berhampur and Bolangir and bank accounts of Abhay Kant Pathak, and his other family members have been traced at Berhampur, which are under verification,” the vigilance officer said.
The Enforcement Directorate has started an investigation into the money laundering angle into Pathak’s disproportionate asset case.
The vigilance has also refered the matter related to the recovery of deposits from bank accounts of Akash Kumar Pathak to the Income Tax Department.