The Saradha scam case, which has been a major issue this election, is coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court Wednesday. In its last hearing on March 26, the court had asked the Special Investigation Team set up by the state government to come back to it with the money trail, which was absent in its earlier report. The central Enforcement Directorate too is probing the scam.
The West Bengal government, which has been trying to steer clear of a CBI inquiry in the case, is set to submit a forensic audit report before the apex court on Wednesday. A ruling against the state government will expose it to further attacks from the Congress and the BJP, which have both accused the government of shielding the scam accused.
The Indian Express has accessed the SIT report which point to how the Saradha Group and its CMD Sudipta Sen played the big game. Key findings from the report:
* The company which went bust in April 2013 had collected Rs 2,460 crore from depositors. The figure was arrived at by the West Bengal police who accessed the company’s books of accounts and software data and physically verified the points where the money went.
* Rs 820 crore was paid to about 2,50,000 agents of the company as “commission”.
* In 2011-12, the company paid Rs 475 crore to depositors whose policies matured. The report said Sen bought property worth Rs 110 crore. According to a highly placed SIT official, the property is worth Rs 600 crore at present market rates.
* Sudipta Sen purchased 17 media organisations, including 10 newspapers and seven TV channels, spending Rs 390 crore. Sen also took over an automobile company and a computer manufacturing firm, spending Rs 50 crore.
* Sen bought a school in Siliguri for Rs 10 crore. The report also talks of transactions worth Rs 34 crore that Sen had with a Congress politician and a Northeast businessman.
* The report says the company had 320 offices all over the country and employees were paid “at least eight times higher” than the market rates. Investigators say dealings were mostly in cash.
* The SIT report says that Saradha executive director Debjani Mukherjee, who was arrested with Sudipta Sen from Kashmir in April last year, was paid a monthly salary of Rs 3.5 lakh while Sen’s son Subhojit Sen took home Rs 9 lakh a month. These salaries do not include perks and allowances.
The central ED has been investigating the scam for over a year now and it has issued notices to over 100 people, including TMC’s Balurghat candidate, Arpita Ghosh, a theatre personality who used to run a media unit owned by Sen.
In the midst of the election season, the scam and the investigation have got political parties trading charges at each other. Both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi have accused the state government of going easy on the scam accused. Speaking in Raiganj on Wednesday, Sonia Gandhi said, “This chit fund company ruined the lives of 18 lakh people in the state and government remained silent.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee retaliated at a poll meeting in Bankura, hitting out at Finance Minister P Chidambaram because of the ED probe: “Chidambaram babu, where were you when the coal scam broke out? Where did the money go?”
Rs 2,460 crore collected from depositors
Rs 1,889 crore of this accounted for:
Rs 820 crore paid to 2.5 lakh agents as commission
Rs 475 crore to depositors whose policies matured
Rs 110 crore property bought by Sudipta Sen (property said to be worth Rs 600 crore now).
Rs 390 crore spent on purchase of 17 media organisations (10 newspapers and seven channels
Rs 50 crore, automobile company and a computer manufacturing firm
RS 10 crore, school in Siliguri
Rs 34 crore, transactions with a Congress politician and a Northeast businessman