The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Odisha Police’s Crime Branch on Monday conducted a search at the office of ‘Sambad’, an Odia daily newspaper owned by BJD MLA Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, over an allegation of loan fraud.
The development came days after BJD, the governing party in Odisha, removed the editor-politician from the post of party vice-president.
The Sambad Group did not comment on the search operation until late Monday.
According to sources, 12 officials of the EOW and the Commissionerate Police conducted the search at Sambad’s office in Bhubaneswar, among the largest circulated Odia dailies. The officials verified some documents related to loan sanction and checked bank account details during the raid, it was informed.
The raid came on a complaint by a former employee of the newspaper against Soumya Ranjan, Baijyanti Kar, the HR head of Sambad, and others with the EOW, based on which a case was registered on Saturday.
EOW sources said they seized some “important documents” related to the case.
“The case has been registered on the allegation that a large number of employees of Sambad were forced to take personal loans under threat. The loan amount, running into crores, was not given to the employees concerned but allegedly used by the mother company, Eastern Media Limited, Bhubaneswar,” an EOW official said.
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According to the FIR, more than 300 employees of Sambad/Eastern Media Limited were allegedly compelled to sign on forged documents, and about Rs 50 crore have been allegedly secured by Soumya Ranjan fraudulently using these forged papers.
In a statement, EOW said some key witnesses have been examined during their probe and many “incriminating documents” collected. So far, 15 to 20 former employees of Sambad have complained that they were allegedly compelled to take loans on the basis of forged documents. Further investigation is on, the agency stated.
On Sunday, the EOW had quizzed Sambad’s publisher, Kamalakanta Mohapata, for nearly three hours as part of their investigation.