Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee is in damage control mode as the Saradha chit fund scam threatens to embarrass her government further. Mamata has promised action if any of its leaders are involved in the scam. "Mamata Banerjee has said that anybody found culpable will be acted against," Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy said.
The Chairman of the group, Sudipta Sen, has been arrested in Jammu and Kashmir along with two others, following which market regulator Sebi has asked Sen to return all the money to investors in three months. A fugitive for 13 days, Sen and two directors of his company were finally caught at a hotel at Sonmarg in Kashmir but not before putting an army of policemen on his trail. The Sebi order said that Saradha Realty and its chief were barred from the securities market till all the money was refunded to the investors.
So far three people have lost their lives and many more have tried to commit suicide. As lakhs of investors in West Bengal lose their savings in a chit fund scam following the collapse of the Saradha Group, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been shifting the blame on the Left. This even as heat builds on Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh who headed Saradha group's media unit. But he claims it was a while back when he was working as a journalist.
From Kolkata to Kashmir, Sen and his two aides and directors travelled across six cities. Sudipta and his accomplices travelled through Delhi, Dehradun, Haridwar, Haldwani and Udhampur befor reaching Sonemarg.
What did him in was a white Scorpio and a crack team following it through toll plazas and CCTV cameras from different hotels. Six trunks of property deeds, a maze of real estate dealings and dozens of shell companies for the police to examine - it's a long and murky trail that duped lakhs of investors. Arnab Ghosh, ADC, Detective Department, Bidhanangar Police, said, "We have been able to examine a director Hemant Pradhan, he was actually a cook of the command, in fact he didn't even know that he was one of the directors."
Even as SEBI has asked Sudipta Sen to return all the money to investors in three months, the role of Sebi itself is now being questioned as many unanswered questions remain.
- What took Sebi so long to act, even though it had beeb tracking the operations of the company since 2010?
- Why did Sebi do nothing to stop its operations?
The police will ask experts and a CA firm to look into the mountain of documents. The challenge for the government is to find out a way to return the money back to the investors, many of whom have lost their life's savings.