Chitgate: ED grills Ashirbad for 6 hours

Bhubaneswar: For the first time since the chit fund scam came to fore, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday interrogated Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) secretary Ashirbad Behera for his alleged links with scam-tainted chit fund company Artha Tatwa (AT) group.

The marathon interrogation of Behera, which lasted about six hours, involved questions on the Rs one core which the AT group had given to the OCA to sponsor the title of OPL-I and the Odisha Ranji team’s visit to Australia in 2011.

ED sleuths also interrogated four other office-bearers of the cricketing bod, including OCA joint secretary Sandeep Dutta, accountant Basant Swain and cashier MA Ahad.

“They (ED officials) asked me about the Rs one crore given to OCA by AT Group. I have replied to all their queries,” Behera said.

Giving details on the expenses of the Ponzi firm’s money, he stated, “OCA spent Rs 75 lakh on Michael Bevan, the then coach of Odisha Ranji team and the remaining on OPL matches.”

However, ED sources said while Bevan was paid Rs 53 lakh to train the players, Rs 25 lakh was spent mainly on jerseys of the players and miscellaneous things.

But the ED is not convinced whether the chit fund firm had paid only Rs one crore or more, considering varying statements of AT chief Pradeep Sethy and Behera, sources added.

On August 16, 2014, the CBI had raided the association’s office and Behera’s residence. Sources said that around Rs 5 crore had been invested in the first edition of OPL.

Officials of the ED said they would continue to grill Behera and OCA’s office bearers to ascertain their links with the AT group.