For years, Tapan Mohanty dreamed that he would one day own the ITDC Nilachal Ashok Hotel in Puri, just 4 km from his home.
For a decade he prepared for it, renting a lodge in the city, buying land for a hotel on the Puri-Konark highway, and taking an interest in real estate. Then came the opportunity. In February 2020, Mohanty signed an agreement between his poultry company and “ITDC” for the sale of the hotel for ??12 crore, which is to be divested as part of the Indian government’s national monetization pipeline.
A year and a half later, Mohanty is weakened, by a speech impairment caused by a stroke and three surgeries between December and February, and knowing that he was the victim of an ingenious and elaborate scam. , which has just been unraveled. by Odisha Police. It’s an idiot who cost him ??50 lakh, and his dream.
ITDC Nilachal Ashok, which Mohanty was seeking to acquire from Utkal Ashok Hotel Corporation, a joint venture of ITDC and OTDC, was formed in January 1989 after the state government granted him a 99-year lease on the land where it is located. The hotel, although now dilapidated, is located on the Blue Flag beach of Puri, next to the Raj Bhawan. In 2004, the hotel was closed as it was deemed unviable. Utkal Ashok Hotel Corporation then decided to lease the hotel for a period of 40 years in 2005-06, but there were no bidders. In 2009 it was re-tendered and a Kolkata-based company AFR Paulmech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd won the offer but reportedly defaulted on its deposit payments and lease no. could not be executed. In 2013, the board of directors of Utkal Ashok Hotel Corporation decided to terminate the agreement, following which AFR Paulmech Infrastructure filed a lawsuit in the high court of Orissa in October 2013. In 2017, Orissa’s high court dismissed the summons petition following which the company appealed to the Supreme Court, where the case is still pending.
The hotel is one of eight ITDC properties that have been listed for monetization in the National Monetization Pipeline released by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in August.
The man and the crook
Mohanty grew up in Puri and launched his trading company, TK Egg and Chicken Center, shortly after the 1999 Super Cyclone. In two decades, the company has grown to formidable size, supplying eggs and broiler chicken to no less than 70 centers in Odisha, the money allowing Mohanty to get into real estate. Yet his heart had always been to own a hotel. In 2015, he rented a small lodge in Puri, but it has not yet taken off as its interior decoration is still incomplete. Even before that, in 2011, he bought a 1.2 acre piece of land on the Puri-Konark Sea Route, where he intended to build a resort. This land is fallow.
In December 2019, an acquaintance of Mohanty, who worked with the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), arranged a meeting between him and three people for the sale project. The roles were well defined: Anikesh Sahu, 30, was the entrepreneur who executed various ITDC projects; Chandan Akash Mohanty, 32, posed as an ITDC official; a third person, not yet appointed by the police, accompanied them as a clerk. Mohanty, perhaps blinded by desire, didn’t feel anything wrong and fell in love with the scam.
On February 29, 2020, Mohanty signed an agreement on behalf of his company “TK Chicken and Egg Center” titled “Expression of Interest and Company Qualification” printed on non-judicial stamp papers from ??90. Chandan Akash Mohanty signed the document on behalf of “ITDC”.
“We confirm that our consortium / joint venture meets the eligibility criteria, including the qualification guidelines for bidders seeking to acquire the public sector company through the divestment process issued by the government of India and the divestment department,” states the agreement. Even in this agreement, there were red flags. The Divestment Department was renamed the Public Asset Management and Investment Department (Dipam) on April 14, 2016.
EOW officials said the trio made a deposit from Mohanty ??20 lakh to ITDC’s SBI account at Lodhi Road Delhi branch on February 29. “As the final deal was not yet done, the three told Mohanty he had to pay another ??30 lakh to process the deal with different ITDC sections before the hotel was finally sold [to him] for ??12 crores. They even told Mohanty he had to pay a bribe of ??3 crores for pushing the final sale through the ITDC bureaucracy, ”said Dilip Tripathy, police superintendent of the economic offenses wing.
Confirmation from ITDC, of course, never came. “Mohanty paid ??30 lakh in cash over a period of time to push his bid for the hotel deal, ”Tripathy said.
While investigations are still ongoing, EOW officials said they contacted ITDC to inquire about the ??20 lakh that Mohanty deposited on February 29, but said it was not uncommon for high value deposits to be made to the ITDC account. “We will do our best to have the amount credited to Mohanty,” the SP said. When HT asked for comment, ITDC CFO SD Paul said he would not be able to comment on the matter as the case was under investigation by police. .
Shortly after signing the deal, Mohanty told his 20-year-old daughter Tamanna to prepare for a hotel management course, in anticipation that she would run the hotel in a few years.
Instead, within days, Bijayini Mohanty, Tapan’s wife, said the family started to sense that something was wrong. Covid-19 struck, and with normal business going haywire, the three began to dodge his phone calls. “Every time he called Chandan Akash he would say that the ITDC office is closed due to Covid-19. There was no way not to believe it. However, he stopped answering my husband’s calls and I started to believe that my husband had been ripped off, ”Bijayini said. In September, Tapan Mohanty contracted Covid-19 and recovered a month later. Calls became rare, but even when they were made, there was no response.
Then a greater tragedy struck.
In December, Mohanty suffered a stroke and was admitted to a private hospital in Bhubaneswar. “Surgery was done in his brain, and a month later it was discovered that he had developed a bacterial infection in his head. A second operation was therefore performed because his brain was swelling. He was getting violent too, ”Mohanty’s wife said. A third operation followed soon after, and Mohanty lost the ability to speak. “A brain abscess had developed due to the bacterial fungal infection as a result of the stroke in his brain. Surgery was needed to flush out the life-threatening pus. The trauma left him unable to speak, ”said neurosurgeon Dr Somnath Jena, who operated on him.
Mohanty’s distraught wife kept calling the three men to return their money; the treatment cost the family ??21 lakh, drugs and physiotherapy not included. The main defendant even visited Mohanty in hospital in January.
On August 21, the Economic Crimes Wing of Odisha Police announced the arrest of a self-proclaimed Baba Swami Bijayanandaji Maharaj, also known as Bijayananda Choudhary, and another accomplice for allegedly duping a contractor for ??3 crores. Choudhary and the accomplice allegedly took the contractor’s money, giving him fake work orders for the renovation of two OTDC-managed properties near Lake Chilika – one in Barkul in Khurda district and the another in Rambha in Ganjam district. The name of the accomplice was Chandan Akash Mohanty.
Caring for her sick husband in Puri, Bijayini immediately recognized Chandan Mohanty when his name appeared in local newspapers on August 22. frauds too. Then Tapan Mohanty’s wife sent us a letter complaining that her husband was also cheated by the man. Our subsequent investigation led to the arrest of Anikesh Sahu on October 21. The third defendant is still at large, and we are also investigating the involvement of more people, ”said Tripathy, SP, EOW.
Police officials said Sahu was working with an event management company in the state. Chandan Mohanty is a civil engineer who briefly worked with the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation and was the mastermind of the operation. “He’s as polite as he can get, wears designer clothes and speaks in a calm, gentle voice. He got married last year and hosted a lavish reception at a renowned hotel in Bhubaneswar. He probably had the idea of posing as an ITDC official while working with the state-owned OTDC. The other accused, Anikesh Sahu, worked in a jewelry store belonging to his uncle, ”the SP said. The accused were arrested under sections 419 (deception for identity theft), 420 (deception and dishonesty leading to the delivery of goods), 467 (counterfeiting of securities), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating) and 471 (use of false documents) of the Indian penal code.
The Mohantys two-story Puri House, built in 2012, is richly decorated with a large TV in the living room. Secured by steel gates, Mohanty lives on the second floor. Yet it is a family that sinks under the weight of a failed business. Mohanty had started making financial preparations and was planning to contact the banks to finance the hotel business.
“He pawned my gold jewelry for about ??4.5 lakh, took out personal loans at high interest rates and sold part of his land for the transaction. Now people are calling me asking for the money he borrowed, ”said Bijayini Mohanty.
“This hotel has ruined my family.”