Odisha sex-extortion scandal: ED questions brother of BJD MLA; Opposition wants Naveen’s resignation

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With the Enforcement Directorate (ED) questioning the brother of a BJD MLA in connection with the sex and extortion scandal allegedly involving Archana Nag, opposition BJP and Congress on Thursday alleged involvement of more ruling party leaders in the scandal and demanded Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s resignation.

The ED, which has lodged a case on allegations of large amounts of money being laundered, on Thursday questioned Gangadhar Samal, a businessman and brother of Dhenkanal MLA and BJD leader Sudhir Samal, for allegedly transferring a large amount of money to Nag’s account.

Raising the issue on the first day of the winter session of the Assembly on Thursday, Congress legislature party leader Narasingha Mishra alleged involvement in the scandal of several state ministers, ruling BJD legislators and businessmen who are relatives of ruling party leaders.

Senior BJP leader and Opposition chief whip Mohan Majhi said the Chief Minister has not even ordered an inquiry into the matter despite alleged involvement of many influential persons. “Odisha had never seen such scandals in the past,” Congress’s Mishra said. “The SIT inquiring into black money (scam) has also directed the Income Tax Department to probe the matter. The ED has arrested one person, who was earlier freed by the state police. Despite alleged involvement of ruling party leaders, the Chief Minister remained silent, which indicates he is trying to shield the culprits.”

Therefore, Mishra asserted, Patnaik has “no moral right to continue in his post”.

Nag is the alleged mastermind of an extortion racket to target politicians, businessmen and officials. Arrested on October 6, she has also been charged with allegedly forcing women into prostitution and later using them to blackmail people in powerful positions. Nag’s husband, Jagabandhu Chand, was arrested on October 22 for his alleged role in the scandal.

Meanwhile, after 12 hours of questioning by the ED, Gangadhar Samal said Nag’s husband had booked a car from his showroom but later cancelled it, and thereafter returned him around Rs 35.11 lakh through cheque. Gangadhar denied his brother had any role in the transaction.

In the Assembly on Thursday, Panchayati Raj Minister Pradip Amat presented a supplementary budget of Rs 16,800 crore for 2022-23.

The winter session is scheduled to continue until December 31. CM Patnaik, Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallik, and senior BJD MLA Prafulla Samal have requested to attend the session virtually on health grounds, according to sources in the Assembly.