Throwing out the opposition by the Mamata Banerjee government, the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe into chit fund scams by the Saradha group and other ponzi firms in West Bengal while pointing out “involvement of several political and other influential personalities wielding considerable clout and influence”.
The court also asked the CBI to take over from state police the investigations into chit fund scams in Orissa and dig deep into the aspect of inter-state ramifications and larger conspiracy angle into the scams that had grown to more than Rs 10,000 crore.
Mamata’s Trinamool Congress had to face scathing criticism after some party leaders came under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged links with the Saradha group. Saradha promoter Sudipta Sen and suspended Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh are already behind the bars in connection with the scam while MP Srinjoy Bose has been questioned by serious Fraud Investigation Office.
“Money trail has not yet been traced. The collections made from the public far exceed the visible investment that the investigating agencies have till now identified. So also the larger conspiracy angle in the states of Assam, Orissa and West Bengal has not made much headway, because of the inter-state ramifications, which the investigating agencies need to examine but are handicapped in examining,” said the court while asking the CBI to conduct further investigations.
A bench of Justices T S Thakur and C Nagappan slammed the regulatory authorities like SEBI, Registrar of Companies and officials of the RBI, “within whose respective jurisdictions and areas of operation the scam not only took birth but flourished unhindered”.
It said that “possible connivance” of the officials cha-rged with the duty of preventing the scams required to be closely examined since the scam of this magnitude going unnoticed and unchecked for years was “suggestive of a deep-rooted apathy if not criminal neglect on the part of the regulators”.
The SC noted, “Depending upon whether the investigation reveals any criminal conspiracy among those promoting the companies that flourished at the cost of the common man and those who were supposed to prevent such fraud calls for a comprehensive investigation not only to bring those who were responsible to book but also to prevent recurrence of such scams in future.”
The bench directed all the state authorities to assist the CBI in carrying out further investigation while also clarifying that the order will not affect the proceedings pending before the Commissions of Enquiry established by the state governments or stall any action that is legally permissible for recovery of the amount for payment to the depositors. In case of West Bengal, the court was hearing two PILs — one filed by advocates Pratim Kumar Singha Ray and Abu Abbasuddin, and another by advocate Subrata Chattoraj, seeking a CBI inquiry into the scam.
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