Sharmili Mallick

The prolonged raids by the Odisha Vigilance department at 15 places across the State in connection with a disproportionate assets (DA) case registered against Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi concluded on Monday.

The simultaneous raids that began at around 7.30 am on Sunday morning ended at 6.30 am today.

Though the exact value of disproportionate assets recovered in the raids is yet to be ascertained, sources said that a huge amount of gold ornaments, cash and documents were unearthed during the searches.

The Vigilance officials said that Panigrahi will be questioned in connection with the recovered assets and appropriate action will be taken against him if he fails to give satisfactory answers regarding the sources of the property.

The raids were conducted at 15 locations related to Panigrahi, including his residential house at Bhubaneswar. The searches were carried out under the supervision of a Vigilance Cell SP, two additional SPs, 17 DSPs who were assisted by other team members.

The Odisha Vigilance Directorate had earlier conducted a secret verification on Panigrahi against whom allegations pertaining to possession of assets disproportionate to his known sources of income were levelled.

On obtaining substantial evidence, a complaint was filed before Odisha Lokayukta on December 9, 2020 . The Odisha Lokayukta had subsequently asked the Vigilance to conduct an inquiry against Panigrahi under Section 20 (2) of the Odisha Lokayukta Act, 2014.

Following this, an inquiry was conducted and it was revealed that Panigrahi had intentionally enriched himself during his incumbency as a public servant from May 24, 2009, to November 30, 2020. He was found in possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 5,05,04, 656. The inquiry report was submitted to the Lokayukta Odisha on May 28, 2021, the Vigilance had earlier informed in a release.

It may be noted that on December 3, 2020, the CID Crime Branch of Odisha Police had arrested Panigrahi in connection with a case of forgery, criminal conspiracy and other cyber offences.

After his arrest, Panigrahi was also expelled by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). He was released from Jharpada jail in Bhubaneswar on June 12, 2021, after he was granted bail by the Orissa High Court in connection with the ‘TATA Motors job fraud’ case registered at the Golanthara police station in Ganjam district.