Even as a one-man commission, constituted by the West Bengal government, is working hard to pay off the investors who lost money in the Saradha chit fund scam, there is hardly any progress in identifying the landed property the now-bust company held in state.
Before the Saradha Group went bust in April 2013, and before its chairman and managing director Sudipta Sen was arrested the same month, the company allegedly held landed property worth more than Rs 124 crore in Bengal.
That was the estimate the state government submitted before the Justice (retd) Shyamal Sen Commission of Inquiry, set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, to probe into the scam and also to compensate the victims of Saradha and other ponzi schemes.
The exercise was aimed at identifying the properties of the Group, so that they could be attached and sold off by the Commission and the money used to pay back the depositors.
However, the estimate submitted by the state government, had “lots of grey areas” and the Commission had written to 14 district magistrates (DMs) in the state to file reports detailing such properties and their legal status.
So far, the Commission has been told about plots of land in three districts — Bankura, South Dinajpur and Murshidabad — that are without encumbrances. “We have got responses from three DMs. Several others are yet to submit theirs,” a Commission official told The Indian Express.
Identification and sale of such land could have added a substantial amount to the Rs 500 crore corpus that Mamata has created to compensate the investors in chit fund scam. The commission has so far disbursed nearly Rs 251 crore among 4.98 lakh depositors of Saradha Group. More than 17 lakh depositors have applied before the Commission for compensation.
The Commission has already entered into an agreement with the PSU MSTC Ltd for selling off the properties owned by Sudipta Sen. It has also seized 66 cars owned by the Group, but since most of the vehicles are entangled in some kind of encumbrances, which the Commission is trying to get cleared first.
The Commission is also receiving complaints against chit funds other than Saradha Group and is conducting hearings every day. So far complaints against 627 non-Saradha chit funds have come from as many as 5.6 lakh duped depositors. Every day, more and more such complaints are coming in.
“It is a colossal exercise and we are meticulously examining all records to render justice to the depositors. Several agencies including the police, SEBI and Registrar of Companies have been called by us,” Justice (retd) Sen told The Indian Express.
However, the Commission is also worried about the fact that its tenure is going to end on October 23, this year. “We don’t know how it will be possible to finish such a huge job in such a short period of time,” an official said.