ED attaches assets worth over Rs 480 cr in ponzi, mining scam cases

Bhubaneswar: Enforcement Directorate (ED) today issued a string of orders attaching assets to the tune of about Rs 485 crore of three mining companies and a chit fund firm in connection with its money laundering probes in Odisha.

In the first case, the agency’s Kolkata zonal office, under which Odisha falls, issued orders attaching assets worth Rs 400 crore of three firms, their owners and associates in the Uliburu mining scam case which was also probed by Justice (retd) M B Shah Commission for alleged financial irregularities and corruption.

The agency, sources said, attached a number of immovable and movable assets of the accused firms in the case like Ms Deepak Steel, Ms Deepak Steel and Power and Ms Sneh Pushp and their directors like Deepak Kumar, Champak Gupta and Haricharan Gupta and a few others.

“The assets attached under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in this case largely include land and buildings spread across Odisha and Kolkata. The orders in this regard were issued to the accused in the case today,” sources said.

The case pertains to Uliburu mines area located in Joda mining circle in Keonjhar district of the state where largescale alleged irregularities were detected by the state mines department a few years back.

Justice Shah Commission, which probed a number of mining scam cases in Odisha and Goa, had termed this particular case as “one of the biggest illegal minings ever” and recommended a CBI probe into the matter.

ED had slapped PMLA charges after taking cognisance of the FIR filed in this regard by the Vigilance wing of the Odisha Police in 2012.

The agency had also arrested two persons in this case– prime accused Deepak Gupta and his associate S Rout.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money had been reviewing the case for appropriate action to be taken by probe agencies like ED.

Odisha Vigilance department earlier had filed a charge sheet in this case against 23 persons and 2 firms in a special court in Keonjhar.

Deepak Gupta, the power of attorney holder of Uliburu mines in Odisha’s Keonjhar district, was charged by the Vigilance with having raised ore from the reserve forest area adjacent to the mines by shifting the lease boundary.

Gupta, who was given the power of attorney by B K Mohanty, the lessee of Uliburu iron ore and manganese mines, had illegally mined around 45.22 lakh tonnes of iron ore from Uliburu reserve forest and gained Rs 893.67 crore as profit during 2003-2010, the Vigilance had said in the charge sheet.

The scam is estimated worth Rs 1,000 crore.

The second case relates to the Rs 400 crore Artha Tatwa group chitfund scam in the state, where the agency attached Rs 85 crore assets of prime accused Pradeep Sethi and few others.

“The assets attached include both movable and immovable properties including some cash,” sources added.

The AT group is alleged to have indulged in a ponzi scam in Odisha duping numerous investors. While CBI is also probing the case, ED registered a PMLA case last year to probe money laundering charges.

Sethi has been in jail since he was arrested in 2013.

An attachment order under money laundering laws is aimed at depriving the accused from enjoying the benefits of his or her illegal wealth.

An affected party can approach the Adjudicating Authority of PMLA for relief against such an action.