A day after Odisha vigilance department finished its nationwide raids on the premises of senior Indian Forest Service Abhay Pathak for his ‘unaccounted riches’, the sleuths on Friday arrested him along with his son. The raids revealed the lavish lifestyle of the officer disproportionate to his known sources of income. Pathak was suspended by the state government after his arrest.
Pathak, a 1987-batch IFS officer, working as the additional principal chief conservator of forests (plan, programme and afforestation) of Odisha since June 2018, was arrested after vigilance officials conducted raids across 13 places, including his official residence in Bhubaneswar, his office, his apartment, the apartment of his nephew, driver’s house, his house at his native village in Bihar, luxury apartments and farmhouse in Pune and residence of his son’s manager at Samata Colony, Pune.
His son Abhay Pathak, possessed expensive vehicles like Mercedes, BMW and Tata Harrier as well as high-end bikes such as Yamaha FZS motorcycles, was also arrested.
The arrests came after a team of over 150 vigilance officials, including chartered accountants, bank officials and cyber cell, rummaged through documents and other records of Pathak and his family.
The father-son duo was medically examined before they were produced before a local court. Both of them denied the allegations of amassing disproportionate assets.
“My son gets a salary of Rs 1 crore a month. I have no ill-gotten wealth and everything is legal,” Pathak said while his son said they were being framed. A special vigilance team last night grilled Pathak, his son, nephew Harsh and his driver.
During the search ops in the last two days, the vigilance sleuths found that Pathak and his family had made at least 20 trips to different cities across the country through chartered planes at an expenditure of over Rs 3 crores during the lockdown. It was found that Pathak made cash deposits of about Rs 9.4 crores in the bank accounts of his son, out of which about Rs 8.4 crores was deposited in Bhubaneswar through ATMs. During the house search and subsequent inquiry, cash worth around Rs 60 lakh was found along with gold ornaments weighing 800 grams. He was found to own an 8,000 sq ft luxurious apartment with ivory-crusted bed.
The officials also found hotel bills worth more than Rs 90 lakhs at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, and a booking amount of Rs 20 lakhs at Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur in Rajasthan for the upcoming marriage of his son with the daughter of a senior BJD politician from Ganjam district.
Officials said Pathak was found in possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 9.35 crore which was 435 per cent of his total income from all known sources. Accordingly, a case under several sections of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2018, has been registered against the officer and his son. The father-son duo was remanded to judicial custody till December 9.
Vigilance department officials said as huge cash deposits were made in private banks through deposit slips and ATM counters and high-value transactions have been made in the accounts, details of operations of the concerned banks in this regard are being probed. Similarly, since the bookings and payments concerning chartered flights have been made through Bhubaneswar-based travel agencies, their role is being investigated. Details of income tax returns are being ascertained. Investments in shares, mutual funds and other market instruments are also being probed. The aspects of benami transactions and properties are also being looked into.
In view of the expanding scope of investigation, a 20 member SIT has been formed to thoroughly investigate all aspects.
Pathak’s son Akash was allegedly cheating people of money, promising to get them jobs at Tata Motors by falsely claiming to be a managing director at Tata Motors. The company in May had complained with the CID against Akash, accusing him of committing cheating, forgery and impersonating as the MD of the company.