The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has zeroed in on at least four senior officials, including two of market regulator SEBI and a retired manager of the Reserve Bank of India, for their alleged role in laundering huge amounts money in the multi-crore Saradha financial scam.
The central agency, which has already made two arrests in connection with the ponzi scam in West Bengal —- East Bengal Club executive member Debabrata Sarkar on Wednesday and businessman Sandhir Agarwal on Saturday —- had put the said officials, all from organisations, which were supposed to keep a vigil on the ‘ponzi schemes’ owners, under scanner. The investigation against them is now at an advanced stage.
Significantly, the Enforcement Directorate, which is probing into the money laundering aspect of the scam, had found several “serious irregularities” in the functioning of these officials. The ED had also interrogated these four along with several others. The four include a retired manager of Reserve Bank of India, a top official in the Registrar of Companies (Kolkata) and two of the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI). They are not only accused of “lapses”, but the investigators also revealed that they “compromised on their official responsibility” and had allegedly accepted huge “bribes” to look the other way.
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Sources in the CBI said the agency has collected proof about the government officials who allegedly colluded with people networking with the Saradha Group and who “managed” all the violations of the norms while taking deposits and issuing debenture and share certificates to common people who invested in the now bust group.
CBI sleuths, during raids across several locations in the country, had seized several “incriminating documents” which clearly indicate how some central government officials tried to cover up the “illegal business” of Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen. For instance, in 2009, 140 companies of Saradha Group were registered with the ROC, Kolkata in a span of four days. Significantly, more than 50 of these 140 companies were registered on a Saturday, revealed a senior official of union finance ministry.
Officially, the ROC is closed on Saturday,
“RBI and SEBI are equally responsible (for the scam). While SEBI officers were sitting on the Saradha files, RBI did not inspect the company even though it has the power to do so. The vigilance commission in SEBI has already conducted an internal inquiry into the malpractices of some of its officers. A report has been submitted to both the ED and the CBI,” the official said.
He further added that “ROC office, Kolkata” has also played a major role in the scam. “Every year, ROC used to receive the balancesheets of the company. They should have identified the irregularities. But they compromised, and the data was not sent to the concerned ministry properly. Most of the balancesheets of the company are now found to be fake and mostly with manipulated data,” he added.
Incidentally, while handing over the probe into the scam to the CBI in May this year, the Supreme Court had said,”Investigation conducted so far puts a question mark on the role of regulatory authorities (such as) SEBI, Registrar of Companies and officials of RBI”.
The apex court had said it wanted the “larger conspiracy” to be closely examined.