Bhubaneswar: The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Odisha Police Wednesday claimed it has “credible” evidence against the “well thought conspiracy and organised bank fraud” by leading Odia daily ‘Sambad’.
Teams of the investigating agency Monday raided the office of the media house, owned by senior BJD leader and Khandapada MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, after a case was registered under different sections of the IPC including 420 (cheating) and 120-B (conspiracy).
Sambad has termed the EOW action as “political vendetta and an attack on the freedom of press”.
“The investigating agency has been able to collect/seize some credible documents including loan/ bank related relevant documents. We have also seized certain documents during a search in the Sambad office,” a senior crime branch official of Odisha Police under which the EOW functions said.
Sambad editor Patnaik was removed from the post of the BJD’s vice-president after he wrote certain signed critical editorials against the state government and a secretary-level officer.
The EOW official also said that more than 350 Sambad/ Eastern Media Limited employees have taken loans from Odisha Gramya Bank, IRC Village branch in the last few years.
The Sambad authorities allegedly forced its employees to sign on the bank documents following which loans are sanctioned against their names. However, the loanees (employees) do not know how much they received as loans from the bank, the official said.
Noting that the Sambad/EML repays the loans in different installments without knowledge of the loanee concerned (employee), the official said: “Investigation/ evidences collected so far, reveal a huge, well and meticulously planned scam to get the loan amounts sanctioned in crores of rupees using fraudulent method of cheating, forgery and coercion.”
“Strangely, in many cases, EMIs are paid by Sambad/EML even though the employees have left/resigned/removed from the company months before,” the official added.
Though the EOW registered the case against Patnaik and the company’s HR head Baijayanti Kar on the basis of one complaint, an official release said: “The above pattern seems not to be just one instance or coincidence but a well thought of conspiracy and organised bank fraud.”
The opposition BJP and Congress have come down heavily on the state’s BJD government and termed the EOW action as an “attack on the freedom of the press”.
Several rights activists also raised their voices against the police raid on Sambad.
State Congress president Sarat Pattnayak at a press conference Wednesday said his party would not tolerate such “blatant attempts to throttle the voice of the press” in Odisha.
The ruling BJD has rejected the opposition allegation and claimed that the EOW was conducting the investigation in a fair manner.
“The media houses are not above the law. Anyone found violating law will be punished,” said BJD spokesperson Lelin Mohanty.