Odisha Police recommends Income Tax to probe into 'benami transaction' in Sarua land scam

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 5 (PTI) Odisha Police on Thursday requested the Income Tax department to investigate the benami transaction angle in the land scam allegedly committed by Odisha Infra Tech Private Limited during purchase of land from scheduled caste people at Sarua village in Khurda district.

The Economic Offence Wing will continue to probe into other aspects of the case while IT has been recommended to probe into the benami transaction as per the provision of Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, Crime Branch ADGP Soumendra Priyadarshi told reporters here.

As the state police have no authority to investigate benami transactions, it urged the Income Tax Department to probe the matter, the ADGP said.

'As per preliminary enquiry done by the EOW prima facie it is established that Odisha Infratech Pvt Ltd had usurped land through frauds, cheating and intimidation from some scheduled caste people and other scheduled caste persons, which is a cognizable offence,' the EOW said in a statement.

Naming BJP national vice-president and former MP Baijaynt Panda and his wife Jagi Mangat Panda as promoters of the Odisha Infra Tech Private Limited, an official release issued by the EOW said: 'Odisha Infra Tech Private Limited used a driver (belonging to schedule caste) of one of the directors, to act as a conduit to purchase these lands.' The investigating agency said more than 7 acres of land was purchased by the company in the name of one Rabi Sethi and later sold. However, he (Sethi) was never in possession of the land. Scheduled Caste (SC) people have been cheated in the incident while Rabi Sethi was used as a conduit, the EOW said.

'The account of Sethi has been verified by EOW and no money was given in this regard to him. Later, it also came to light that the lands bought in 2010 to 2013 in the name of Sethi and later sold in 2016 and 2019 to OIPL was never in the possession of Sethi,' the EOW said.

It said the lands were purchased from villagers of Sarua in Begunia block of Khurda district between June, 2010 and June, 2013 at much lower price from villagers in the name of Rabi Sethi, who was working as a driver of one of the directors of the firm.

Possession of the land was never with Sethi, rather it was taken over by the firm, the Crime Branch said.

The Government of Odisha had ordered a Crime Branch probe in the land scam matter. Manoranjan Sarangi, a director of the Odisha Infratech Pvt Ltd and also a senior executive of Panda owned OTV, and one Siba Prasad Srichandan, dealings with the company, have been arrested by the EOW.

Odisha Television Limited owned by Panda's family in a press statement welcomed the matter being handed over to the Income Tax department.

'From the beginning, we have been saying that this is not under the per view of the state police, but yet many fake cases have been filed against our employees and group companies, including Odisha Infratech Ltd and they are being harassed,' it said.

The OTV said: 'Finally we are glad that they have accepted it and have forwarded it to income tax dept as demanded by us in Orissa High Court today. We welcome the move.' PTI AAM RG RG