The Central Bureau of Investigation on Monday constituted a SIT to probe the alleged fraud in the Saradha chit-fund case involving over Rs.10,000 crore of public investments in different States.
“The agency has set up the SIT under Joint Director (North-East) to look into the alleged scam. The CBI officials from West Bengal, Odisha, North-East States and Bihar will also be part of the team,” said a CBI official on Monday.
The SIT will soon collect all relevant documents from the West Bengal Police before registering an FIR in the matter. The agency, as directed by the Supreme Court, will also look into the larger conspiracy angle behind the alleged scam.
The Supreme Court had this past week ordered a CBI probe into the chit fund scam. Issuing the direction, a Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and C. Nagappan said: “We are in this case dealing with a major financial scam nicknamed ‘Chit Fund Scam’ affecting lakhs of depositors across several States.”
Justice Thakur said nearly Rs.10,000 crore was collected in West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Odisha from the public, particularly from the weaker sections, that had “fallen prey to the temptations of handsome returns promised by the companies involved in the scam.”
Stating that investigations conducted so far had revealed involvement of several political and influential personalities, the Bench said it could also have international money laundering dimensions.
The Enforcement Directorate had, in a parallel probe into the financial aspects, earlier identified over 220 movable and immovable properties worth Rs.1,983 crore as suspected proceeds of crime for attachment under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ED has also made some provisional attachments.
“The overall recoverable amount is expected to be much higher,” said an official. Since the CBI has now taken over the case, the ED -- which had encountered several hurdles at the preliminary stage -- is now hopeful of smooth flow of information and consequently a satisfactory investigation into the scam that robbed thousands of small-time investors of their hard-earned money.
Given that the CBI will also be probing the larger conspiracy behind the multi-crore financial fraud, the purported confession of main accused and Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen would also be taken into account. The accused had floated over 160 companies in a short span.
In a letter to the agency, Mr. Sen in April 2013 sought to defend himself claiming that he had suffered huge losses because of which he was not in a position to pay off the dues to the investors. He also blamed certain politicians and their associates for the financial debacle of his companies. Among those named by him was suspended Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh.