Bhubaneswar: The Economics Offence Wing (EWO) of the state crime branch today arrested seven persons, including four government officials, in the multi-crore land scam in Ghangapatna on the city outskirts.
Among the arrested officials is the officer on special duty (OSD) to the city's mayor Ananta Narayan Jena.
Yielding to public pressure on the issue, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on August 28 had directed the crime branch to conduct a probe into the scam and submit its report within two months.
The Bhubaneswar tehsildar, in his report to the revenue department, had pointed out large-scale irregularities in the sale and purchase of land in Ghangapatana and how middlemen, in connivance with officials, had fraudulently sold land in the area to several persons.
Additional director general of police (ADG) of crime branch Bijoy Sharma said: “All those arrested were found having links with the land fraud. The accused persons were arrested under different sections of the IPC including cheating (420). Those arrested included four officials of the revenue department. Our investigation is still on.”
Last month, the crime branch had made a spot verification. The accused persons have been identified as additional tehsildar Debasis Mohanty, retired additional tehsildar Arjun Charan Baral, retired revenue inspector Padmacharan Muduli and record keeper Amrut Jena. Debasis Mohanty is also OSD to mayor Ananta Narayan Jena.
Influential people including BJD Rajya Sabha member Kalapataru Das’s MLA son Pranab Balabantaray and state BJP unit president K.V. Singh Deo’s family had bought land in the area.
While Singh Deo continues to maintain that he had purchased land from private persons and everything was done in a transparent manner, Balabantaray said that he had already sold the plot to another person. While the war of words over the issue continued amid protest by the political parties, the government has moved swiftly and brought back into its possession nearly 50 of the 76 acres of disputed land in the area.
In his report, the Bhubaneswar tehsildar had said that part of land that had been brought back to the government records had been purchased by K.V. Singh Deo’s daughter, Nivriti Kumari Singh Deo’s company, Nivriti Exports Private Limited, and another part by the Gokarneswar Charitable Trust, of which Pranab Balabantaray is the chief trustee. Sources said K.V. Singh Deo may challenge the government’s order to take back the land belonging to the Nivriti Exports Limited in court.
Sources said more arrests were likely in connection with the construction of a 30ft wide and 1.3km long road in the area leading to the land acquired by Balabantaray’s Gokarnesswar Charitable Trust.