BHUBANESWAR: In what could snowball into a big embarrassment for Naveen Patnaik and the ruling BJD, the CBI on Saturday summoned and interrogated a key member of the chief minister’s personal staff in connection with the Seashore Group chit fund scam.
Saroj Kumar Sahoo (36), often described as Naveen’s man Friday, was called to the CBI office in the morning for interrogation that continued from 2.25pm to 4.30pm.
“We have evidence of Sahoo’s role in the scam. We do not summon anyone without reason,” a CBI official said, adding, “Bank accounts of Sahoo and his family are being checked.”
Sahoo, who is not a government employee, reportedly has considerable influence on Naveen and the government. CBI sources said there are allegations that Sahoo worked as a middleman between the Seashore Group and “influential” people in the state.
Sahoo’s interrogation comes a day after the CBI questioned Odisha Jan Morcha leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, once known as the de-facto chief minister because of his proximity to Naveen. “I did not give any information about Sahoo. The CBI must have got clues from elsewhere,” Mohapatra clarified, adding “I am happy that CM’s residence is now under the CBI scanner.”
Sahoo was questioned face to face with Seashore chief Prashant Dash, who is in CBI custody. He refused to give the details of the interrogation. “I replied to the questions they asked. I cannot say anything more,” he told reporters.
CBI sources said they had started investigating if Sahoo acted at the behest of any BJD politician or government officer to favour the tainted company. This assumes significance as the Seashore Group managed to bag several government projects of health, tourism, cooperation and agriculture.
The CBI is also trying to find out if Sahoo had links with Subhankar Nayak, a broker who acted as the middleman between the Seashore Group and bureaucrats. Nayak was arrested on November 18.