January 25, 2019 1:06:55 am
The CBI on Thursday arrested founder-director of SVF Entertainment Pvt Limited (formerly Shree Venkatesh Films) Shrikanta Mohta in connection with its ongoing probe into the Rose Valley chit fund scam.
A statement released by the agency said, “The accused allegedly misappropriated approximately Rs 24 crore in the name of producing films and siphoned off this money illegally collected by the said ponzi scheme company from residents of West Bengal, Assam, Odisha and elsewhere…”
Mohta — whose company has produced award-winning films like ‘Chokher Bali’, ‘Raincoat’, ‘Memories In March’, ‘Autograph’, ‘Iti Mrinalini’, ‘Baishey Srabon’ and ‘Hemlock Society’ — was questioned on two previous occasions, during which he had denied the allegations. He also claimed that Rose Valley Group head Gautam Kundu — who is currently in jail in connection with the chit fund scam — had filed a case against him in high court, which was quashed.
Mohta is likely to be taken to Bhubaneswar Friday where he will be produced in court.
Sources said a CBI team first went to question Mohta at his residence at around 7 am Thursday. When they didn’t find him there, they went to his office in Kasba’s Acropolis Mall. On hearing about the sleuths’ visit, Mohta allegedly called Kasba police station. A police team reached his office, but left after affirming that the officials who arrived to question him were indeed from CBI.
Sources further said Mohta refused to be taken to the CGO complex, following which he was questioned for an hour about the films deal, during which he allegedly did not cooperate. The sleuths finally took him to CGO complex at around 3.30 pm after they found “discrepancies” in his statements.
The siphoned funds are also suspected to have been used to procure artwork through Mohta’s company. Sources said the agency is trying to ascertain whether and how much of this was spent on purchase of paintings made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Responding to the development, TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said, “This is a dangerous sign for democracy. The CBI is being misused with a political vendetta. Attempts are being made to use CBI against members of the film industry, industrialists and politicians. This is a dangerous trend. BJP has transformed CBI into a party branch.”
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “The CBI started its work long ago, and we had been demanding for the probe to be sped up. CBI is on the right path. The moment a central agency touches famous people, fingers are raised at them. Does that mean an agency will not do its work?”
Congress state chief Somen Mitra said, “He (Mohta) always used to boast about his closeness to the CM. But now he has been accused of fraud. The CM should now say if he is a fraud or innocent.”
On Thursday evening, the SVF released a statement that read: “CBI in the past had called Shrikant Mohta for investigation in the Rose Valley chit fund matter as a witness, owing to past business transactions between SVF and Brand Value (a Rose Valley Group company), and on account of past legal cases on the same matter, where the Calcutta High Court had quashed all charges alleged against Mohta and the same was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Mohta appeared before CBI twice in the past as a witness and fully cooperated with the investigation. However, on account of personal reasons, he was not able to appear before CBI in January. This was communicated to CBI with a request to grant him 15 days’ time. He even offered his cooperation to CBI in the interim period by requesting them to provide any information required by CBI from him. This morning, however, few CBI officials came to our office unannounced to interrogate him. With the intention to cooperate, Mohta went along with them to their office. We have now been informed that he has been detained.
We strongly and categorically deny and object to any accusations alleged against Mohta. We have full faith in the judiciary and it remains our endeavour to support and cooperate with the enforcement agencies in the course of their investigation.”
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