Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen (left) with Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh. Both men are behind bars
The Rs. 20,000 crore Saradha scam in West Bengal shows no signs of slowing down. A government agency that tracks corporate frauds has reportedly called for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe against state sports minister Madan Mitra and Kolkata Police chief Surajit Kar Purkayastha.
According to the Hindustan Times, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has recommended in its 516-page report that the CBI “take further action” on the allegations against Mitra, a close aide of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, and Purakayasta.
An investigative arm of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the SFIO based its findings on the depositions of suspended Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh, who was arrested last year.
“While the evidence is not sufficient to frame any charge, however, since the CBI is looking into the larger conspiracy angle of the Saradha scam, it is recommended that the matter be referred to CBI for necessary investigation and further action at its end,” says the report.
The federal government had ordered a probe last year into the activities of the Kolkata-based Saradha group of companies in a chit fund scam that allegedly defrauded small depositors across several states in eastern India.
Its flagship company Saradha Realty collected Rs. 2,459 crores from hundreds of thousands of people, promising large returns. It didn’t return the maturity value to the investors and closed down its offices without paying employees. The group eventually went bust in April 2013.
Ghosh has submitted some pictures that show Mitra and Purakayasta at various Saradha group events. Also, Ghosh “has affirmed that very high profile personalities drawn from politics and bureaucracy were associated with the Saradha group publicly and shared stage with (Chairman) Sudipta Sen”, says the report.
Sen, who has been arrested, claimed that he had bought a Ferrari for Mitra’s son while the sports minister allegedly took money from Sen to repair temples in his constituency and to hold a football match featuring Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi.
When contacted for his response, Mitra told the Hindustan Times reporters, “I won’t tell you anything. If some investigative agency summons me, I shall tell them. I’m ready to face any investigation.” Purakayastha did not respond to the Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Ghosh, a former close aide of Mamata Banerjee, threatened to commit suicide if the top names he provided were not probed. But the CBI claimed it does not have enough evidence to investigate those people.
Ghosh also demanded that the chief minister be jointly questioned along with him and Saradha chief Sudipta Sen. His claims have reportedly damaged Mamata's image so much so that the state administration has strictly ordered that he should not be allowed to speak with media while being taken to the court.
"Investigation is being influenced. It is not acceptable that I will rot in jail while those involved will roam freely. I am giving three days' time, if action is not taken I will commit suicide," the suspended Trinamool Congress MP announced in court on Monday.
In response, the CBI claims it was handed over the probe in May this year, after several important documents and the account book of Saradha group was destroyed or taken away.