A day after he was grilled by the crime branch of the CBI in connection with the Saradha scam, former TMC MP, and now a Congress leader, Somen Mitra said he failed to understand why he was summoned by the agency over some “trivial issues”.
“I did not understand why I was summoned. They did not have any specific charge against me. But they made me sit there for several hours. Interestingly, I was the whistleblower in the chit fund scam in West Bengal and I quit the Trinamool Congress (because of that). It looks like an irony of faith,” Mitra said.
He said before going to the CBI office and facing the investigators, “I used to have a sense of respect” for the investigating agency. “But after appearing before the investigators yesterday, I developed a poor impression of them”.
Significantly, Mitra was the first political leader to have written to the Prime Minister in 2011, urging him to take steps against the mushrooming chit fund companies in West Bengal. He had expressed concern over the huge amount of deposits being collected mainly from rural areas by such ponzi firms. The letter had no mention of Saradha Group.
The CBI, however, grilled Mitra primarily on another letter that he had written to the SEBI in 2012 asking the market regulator for certain support for an awareness programme launched by the East Bengal football club. Mitra was questioned about his connections with Saradha CMD Sudipta Sen and Debabrata Sarkar, a senior official of the club, who was arrested earlier in connection with the chit fund scam.
“They asked me why I wrote the letter to SEBI to support the East Bengal Club in their awareness programme on sport. (I told them that ) as an MP, I had the authority to recommend. I was the recommending authority. It was up to them whether they wanted to execute it. As an MP I had several political compulsions and out of those compulsions, I had to make several recommendations,” Mitra said.
The former MP further said that that since he had written to the SEBI, the CBI offficials “started asking me whether I knew Debabrata Sarkar and how many times had I met Sudipta Sen. Why these questions were aimed at me? Had there been any personal interest, I would not have written the letter to the PMO seeking CBI investigation into the ponzi schemes. I went against the TMC party line at that time and raised my voice against the chit fund companies”.
In his letter to the PMO, Mitra had written about the “sky-high” returns that the chit fund companies were offering to investors in absence of any regulatory mechanism. He had also mentioned that a major portion of the funds were being sourced into real estate and other “high-risk ventures” such as film production, media and hospitality.