The promoter of a collapsed chit fund that has bankrupted small depositors in West Bengal and generated a swirling political controversy of potentially national proportions has alleged in a letter to the CBI that two Trinamool Congress MPs took vast sums from him on various occasions and later forced him to transfer the ownership of various media organisations at throwaway prices.
In an 18-page letter, dated April 6, Sudipta Sen, Chairman and Managing Director of the Saradha Group, accuses the two Trinamool leaders, Kunal Ghosh and Srinjay Bose, of approaching him, citing their close links to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He also alleges that Nalini Chidambaram, wife of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who was Union Home Minister at the time, sought his help for the establishment of a television channel in north-east India. The letter accuses other businesspersons and politicians of putting pressure on the fund to lend money for various projects.
None of the individuals named in the letter was available for comment at the time of going to press.
Mr. Sen’s letter, written in rambling and ungrammatical prose, gives a detailed account of the activities of the Saradha Group, the setting up of some of its subsidiaries and its acquisition of television channels and newspapers. He states that he entered the media industry in order to combat “attacks” from the media against his company.
“…Kunal Ghosh [who later became Trinamool Congress MP] led the attack dangerously. He attended the meeting with the then Finance Minister, Asim Dasgupta, and started campaigning against Saradha as I found that very helpless to combat the media attack. I thought I must enter the media business,” Mr. Sen writes.
He then describes acquiring the Bengali news network Channel 10 for Rs. 24 crore, which got operational after he spent “not less than Rs. 50 crore” in branding, advertising, infrastructure and operational costs.
He also alleges that he met Mr. Ghosh and Mr. Bose (who is also now a Trinamool Congress MP) as representatives of the Bengali newspaper Pratidin, and it was agreed that the paper would be paid Rs. 60 lakh a month. Mr. Ghosh was appointed CEO of the channel at a salary of Rs. 15 lakh, he adds.
The agreement assured him that “they will protect my business from the government [both State and Centre]” and “a smooth passage,” the letter states adding that “they assured me that they have close connection with the present Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee.”
In his letter, Mr. Sen threatens that he may commit suicide “because I am feeling helpless” and cannot refund the “entire public money which has been collected in my name” that was put at risk by “unscrupulous persons and cheats in society.”
“My overall business [failed] due to the media entry, extortion from the above named persons [the letter mentions several other names] and blackmailed my own staff and executives (sic),” it adds.