New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday arrested ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Prabhat Biswal in connection with an allegedly dubious land deal with the kingpin of a Rs 500-crore chit fund scam in Odisha.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, officials said Biswal was arrested from his Cuttack residence early Tuesday morning over the land deal with Seashore Group chief Prashant Dash, accused of swindling more than Rs 500 crore from people through a pyramid scheme.
The legislator was remanded in CBI custody for five days by the special chief judicial magistrate, CBI, reported the Telegraph.
Several other MLAs and MPs of the ruling party were arrested earlier for their alleged involvement in other chit fund scams in the state.
Biswal, who the CBI had quizzed four times in the past, denied the charges levelled against him and said that his arrest was politically motivated.
After his arrest, the BJD cried foul and accused the Bhartiya Janata Party of using the CBI to intimidate its political opponents.
BJD vice-president Prasanna Acharya told the Telegraph, “The arrest follows BJP president Amit Shah’s threat during his last visit to the state to put BJD leaders behind the bars. The arrest should be seen in the context of his statement.”
Party spokesperson Pratap Deb said, “In 2014, Biswal and his wife were called by the CBI to probe into the allegations about the land deal. Now the CBI has woken up from its slumber and arrested Biswal. What were they doing for the last three years?”
According to the Telegraph, CBI sources said, “The legislator had failed to show any relevant document to establish his claims that he had returned Rs 25 lakh that his wife Laxmi Bilasini had received from the Seashore group against the sale of a plot of land measuring 32 gunthas at Benapur village in Jajpur district in 2011.”
Biswal’s arrest comes in the backdrop of a worsening relation between the BJD and the BDP. On Monday, the BJD had called a five-hour hartal across the state protesting steep hike in fuel prices. The agitation turned violent with BJP workers clashing with BJD members.
The BJD deployed senior leaders, including Rajya Sabha member Prasanna Acharya, finance minister Sashi Bhusan Behera, revenue minister Maheswar Mohanty and spokesperson Pratap Deb, to launch a counter-attack on the BJP, reported the Telegraph.
Deb told the Telegraph, “We had a feeling that the CBI is functioning impartially when it arrested Hansdah and Tripathy…But with the passage of time we have noticed it is working at the behest of the Centre with a political purpose in mind.”
Behera told the Telegraph, “Earlier in other states, including Bengal, they had used the CBI as a weapon and tried to corner their opponents. Now they are trying to adopt the same policy here. They are using the CBI, enforcement directorate and other agencies.”
BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma refuted the charges. He told the Telegraph, “The CBI is doing its own investigation. The BJD’s accusations are because it is scared. If they have the guts, let them say their leaders are not involved in the scam.”