The CBI has summoned Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam case.
O’Brien, who has been asked to appear before the agency in the first week of August, will likely be asked about transactions related to the bank accounts of TMC mouthpiece, Jago Bangla.
O’Brien, who is the publisher of Jago Bangla, tweeted about the CBI’s summons and pointed out that the editor of the publication, Subrata Bakshi, was also summoned by the CBI a while ago.
The BJP has repeatedly targeted TMC for its connection with the Saradha scam. However, TMC has accused the central government of misusing the CBI to go after its leaders.
Saradha and the TMC
O’Brien is the latest among several Trinamool leaders whom investigators have sought to link to the chit fund scam and its mastermind, Sudipta Sen. While building the Saradha empire, Sen had worked to build connections among politicians, and acquired media organisations.
Actor and TMC MP Satabdi Roy and former Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty were brand ambassadors for Saradha.
Sen appointed then TMC MP Kunal Ghosh as CEO of the media group in which Saradha invested heavily and hired close to 1500 journalists. By 2013, it was running eight newspapers in five languages, and Ghosh was alleged to be making Rs 16 lakh per month.
Another then TMC MP, Srinjoy Bose, was involved in the Group’s media operations. Then West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra headed the Group’s employees’ union.
The CBI questioned over a dozen TMC MLAs and MPs and arrested Srinjoy Bose, Madan Mitra and Kunal Ghosh.
Among those questioned were then TMC vice president and former West Bengal DGP Rajat Majumdar, then Trinamool Youth Congress chief Shankudeb Panda, MP Satabdi Roy and former MP Tapas Paul.
The Enforcement Directorate questioned former Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh.
The Saradha Ponzi scheme
In the early 2000s, Sudipta Sen set up the Saradha Group and started a ‘collective investment scheme’. Small investors were promised very high returns. Money was collected through a wide network of agents who were paid handsome commissions.
In a few years, Saradha raised Rs 2,500 crore. It hired filmstars to endorse the brand, invested in football clubs, started media outlets, and sponsored Durga Pujas.
It expanded operations from West Bengal to Odisha, Assam, and Tripura. The number of investors rose to 17 lakh.
In 2012, SEBI asked Saradha to stop accepting money from investors. In January 2013, the Group’s cash inflow was lower than its outflow — the classic event in a Ponzi scheme approaching its endgame.
By April 2013, the scheme had collapsed, and investors and agents lodged hundreds of complaints with the police.
Sudipta Sen fled West Bengal but was arrested along with his associate Debjani Mukherjee in Kashmir on April 20, 2013.