As part of its efforts to crack down on ponzi schemes, the Centre on Friday said it will soon set up Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in Odisha, even as it put the onus of checking dubious operations by chit fund companies on states.

“We stand by the people of Odisha. We will set up an office of the SFIO here within a month as the Centre was determined to end such illegal activities by unscrupulous chit fund companies,” Union Minister of State for Corporate Affairs, Sachin Pilot told reporters here.

Maintaining that every chit fund company has to register itself with the registrar of chits in the state in which it operates, Mr. Pilot said it is the responsibility of the state government to monitor and regulate the functioning of these firms.

The multi-disciplinary expertise of this proposed office in eastern region would be available to other law enforcement agencies as well, he said, adding, a large number of investors have been duped of thousands of crores of rupees by fraud companies.

Stating that SFIO already has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad, he said investigations by SFIO into 54 such companies are already on and would be fast-tracked to book the offenders.

Whenever these companies indulge in illegalities and violate laws to raise huge money from investors by promising lucrative interest rates, the state agencies must promptly initiate action against them, he said.

Referring to the judicial probe ordered by Odisha government into fraud by chit fund companies, the minister said it is always appropriate to launch a criminal investigation into such fraudulent acts and scams.

On the demand for a CBI probe into chit fund scam in Odisha, Mr. Pilot said the Centre is open to such an inquiry if state government recommends. CBI probe can also be conducted if the Supreme Court gives an order to this effect, he said.

The primary objective is to return the money put by investors, he said, adding, recovery from fraud firms can be made by seizing their properties, assets and freezing bank accounts.

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