As recently seen in the instance of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s dharna politics over Saradha scam, it is evident that the opposition is trying to weave a narrative which has accused the Centre of using the investigating agencies in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But the evidences clearly show that the probe into Saradha scam by the central agencies has followed a systematic path post-2014. The prominent arrests made in this regard and the other actions substantiate this trend. Since the debate over Saradha re-surfaced in the background of CBI’s action against the West Bengal Police chief, let’s present the facts beginning from that point.
West Bengal Police and Their Chief Rajiv Kumar
Here also, the CBI has not gone all of a sudden knocking on Mr Rajiv’s doors in 2019. According to this report in Hindustan Times on February 5, following things have come into light.
- The CBI had communicated to the West Bengal police more than 20 times for questioning some police officers with regard to the scam but to no avail.
- From October 2017, multiple notices had been sent to the WB police chief Rajiv Kumar asking for his personal presence and also the need for some other officers’ presence with regard to the Saradha scam. In all the instances, the WB police have avoided making themselves available citing various reasons.
Prominent Arrests After 2014
- Former West Bengal DGP Rajat Majumdar was arrested in September 2014 by the CBI. In February 2015, Calcutta High Court granted conditional bail for him.
- Former Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Srinjoy Bose was arrested in November 2014 by the CBI. He was also former editor of party mouthpiece Jago Bangla. He had been involved with the management of Mohun Bagan football club in which Saradha group reportedly had invested. Bose was granted bail in January 2018.
- Trinamool Congress leader and former West Bengal Minister, Madan Mitra was arrested by the central agency in December 2014. He was a close aide to CM Mamata Banerjee and had allegedly enjoyed benefits from the Saradha group. He was granted bail in September 2016. (Source)
- October 7, 2015: CBI had arrested the estranged wife of ex-union minister Matang Sinh and former journalist, Manoranjana Sinh, along with Santanu Ghosh, a businessman, in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam.
- The ED had registered a FIR against the firm, its Chairman Gautam Kundu and others in 2014 under the PMLA. Gautam Kundu was arrested by the agency in Kolkata in 2015.
- In Jan 24, 2019, film producer Shrikant Mohta who had allegedly taken Rs. 25 crore from Gautam Kundu, head of Rose Valley, was arrested by the CBI.
Nalini Chidambaram’s Case
The alleged involvement of former chief minister P Chidambaram’s wife in the Saradha scam has also came under lens since 2015.
Nalini Chidambaram, the wife of former finance minister P Chidambaram, who was the legal advisor of Saradha accused Manoranjana Sinh, had been summoned first by the ED in 2015. But she had sent her representative.
Nalini Chidambaram had earlier moved the Madras High Court challenging the summon issued by the ED on September 7, 2016. The Madras High Court had dismissed the petition.
On May 1, ED had issued summons to Nalini asking her presence in the second week of May.
Jan 11, 2019
Nalini Chidambaram was named in CBI charge sheet on the allegation of taking a bribe of Rs 1.4 crore in the Saradha scam.
The Other Actions
In addition to the above, the following instances show how various agencies involved in the investigation of Saradha scam have conducted their investigation without any political interference in order to build cases against fraudsters more strongly.
- The National Company Law Tribunal’s (NCLT) city bench has ordered the winding up of 13 defunct companies of the Saradha Group and directed the official liquidator to take possession of assets and properties of all these companies. While passing this order, the judge had cited the report of Serious Fraud Investigation Office which had revealed that the affairs of all the mentioned companies were being conducted in a fraudulent manner.
- CBI’s probe into Mamata Banerjee’s paintings was also reported back in October 2014 itself. The agency had reportedly started collecting the details from the income tax department on purchase of one of Mamata Banerjee’s paintings by Sudipta Sen, the promoter of the Saradha for Rs 1.8 crore.
Therefore, the post-2014 timeline makes it amply clear that the case against Saradha has been pursued as it needs to be. The political overtone that the opposition is trying to portray can’t be found when a factual narrative related to the Saradha scam probe is examined.