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Arrested chairman of scam-hit Saradha group Sudipta Sen was planning to apply for a bank licence with a capital of over Rs 1,000 crore funds allegedly cobbled from the money of numerous duped investors, an investigation has revealed.
The business venture, which could have been named ‘Saradha bank’, was being allegedly planned as a new market foray of the diversified group by Sen, but as investors raised their voices of being cheated early last year, the project could not see the light of the day.
In fresh revelations made by the investigating agencies of this case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found and recovered documents which were to be used by the group for applying for a fresh bank licence, an opportunity that was announced by country’s banking regulator RBI in February 2013.
The RBI, had then issued guidelines for application procedures for obtaining new bank licences and the deadline for it was kept as July 1.
This year in April, the RBI granted licences to two of the total 25 applicant business groups. The banking regulator had advertised this opportunity after almost a decade, the last being in 2003-04.
An investigation note, prepared by the ED and other probe agencies and accessed by PTI, states that documents were recovered by them during searches on the premises of the Saradha group which revealed that Sen was indeed planning and putting together his resources to apply for a bank licence.
“The capital for this bank could have been anywhere above Rs 1,000 crore and the group was banking on the funds that its front companies had collected by floating the ponzi schemes which are now under probe after the scam broke out,” a source privy to the development said.
Documents related to RBI guidelines, rules and regulatory compliances required for applying a bank licence were recovered during detailed searches, sources said, adding some of them were found after data was forensically recovered from computer hard discs.
“Had the scam not broken out, the group would have applied for the license. We get to understand that the brand name for this future business venture would have been showcased as ‘Saradha bank’,” the source said.
The laundering of the investor funds would have led to the raising of this bank and sources said that these evidences would also be listed by them in the charge sheet of the Saradha scam case which is expected to be filed in the next one month.
The ED has till now found that a complicated maze of 338 bank accounts and 224 companies was used by the perpetrators of this chitfund scam which is alleged to have duped numerous investors of their hard earned monies in various states including West Bengal, Odisha and Assam.
The ED probe report has ascertained that the laundering amount in this case amounts close to Rs 1983.02 crore and it has identified it as “proceeds of crime” as stipulated under the criminal provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Investigative agencies probing the case including ED, CBI, state police departments of West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, have brought under their scanner four companies of the Saradha group which are Saradha Realty Private India Limited, Saradha Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd, Saradha Garden Resort and Hotel Pvt Ltd and Saradha Housing Pvt Ltd as they have been alleged to have mobilised money from the public, the returns of which were later duped leading to the scam.
The Saradha scam has grabbed headlines as a number of high-profile people including politicians and sitting MPs are under the scanner of the various probe agencies in this case.