Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Enforcement Directorate (ED) today attached assets, including 200kgs of silver coins, worth Rs 157 crore in connection with its money laundering probe against Odisha-based Seashore group of companies in an alleged multi-crore chitfund scam case.

ED's zonal office here issued the orders under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as it attached about 13 plush flats in various parts of the state, vast tracts of land in Angul, Bhadrak, Mayurbhanj and other places, a corporate office valued at Rs 30 crore in Bhubaneswar, two factories in Mayurbhanj, 200kgs of silver coins, 1.4kgs of gold coins and other immovable assets in the state.

The company is one of the prominent business groups among a clutch of 44 ponzi companies operating in the state which are under the scanner of CBI and ED after an order of the Supreme Court in this regard.

ED, according to records accessed by PTI, has accused the firm of running a ponzi scheme and perpetrating an estimated Rs 800 crore fraud duping numerous investors belonging to the state and a few others from West Bengal and Assam.

The agency had registered an FIR in this case last year after taking cognisance of complaints filed by Odisha police and the vigilance department.

The probe, under PMLA, found that the group has been running the alleged chitfund scheme by running cooperative societies and taking money from investors as it promised them "unrealistic" returns on investments.

ED, official sources said, found these cooperative societies floated by the group to have allegedly fudged KYC, accounting and registration norms in order to perpetrate the scam.

Sources said the attachment orders issued today will be soon followed by yet another set of similar orders which are being done to freeze these assests from being sold out or frittered out as they are nothing but "proceeds of money laundering.

The attachments, under PMLA, are aimed at depriving the accused from the benefits of his or her ill-gotten wealth.

The group's CMD Prashant Dash is already in jail in this case and has been questioned several times by ED and CBI in their respective cases.

CBI had, in September, searched eight premises of Seashore in Dhenkanal and Balasore districts to collect evidence against the group.

CBI had also raided 29 places, including the houses of Dash at Jharpada here.

This case emerges as about 6.5 lakh people have been allegedly duped of Rs 4,375 crore between January 2012 and June 2013 by several chit fund companies operating in the state and the Seashore Group alone is accused of swindling about Rs 800 crore from the deposits collected from thousands of people.

Dash was arrested by the crime branch of Odisha police from Mumbai in June last year and has been implicated in 37 cheating cases.