Mamata’s aide arrested, released on bail

Shibaji Panja, part of the CM’s delegation to Bangladesh, was arrested soon after his return, in a fraud case.  

A member of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s entourage to Bangladesh, Shibaji Panja, who is also a prominent but small businessman, was arrested for alleged financial fraud late on Saturday night. The businessman, however, was released on bail on Sunday evening “due to lack of proper court orders”, his lawyers said.

But even before the bail was granted, Ms Banerjee said the allegations are “not related” to her.

The middle aged businessman, Shibaji Panja, was taken into custody on his arrival on Saturday night by the State police, a senior official of the Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate confirmed.

“A look-out notice was issued for Panja by the Economic Offence Wing of the Kalkaji Police Station in Delhi on February 19 following which he was arrested yesterday (Saturday),” Panja’s counsel Rajdeep Majumdar told The Hindu here on Sunday.

He also said Panja was charged with several sections of the IPC including 420 (cheating), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 471 (use of forged document or electronic record). “However, it is still not clear why they (Delhi Police) have pressed such charges against him,” added Mr. Majumdar.

“Even though all the charges against him were non-bailable, the bail was granted, as there was no court order for Panja’s arrest,” said Mr. Majumdar and added that the arrest “seems to be politically motivated”.

Meanwhile, Ms Banerjee distanced herself from the incident. “There can be cases against any business person, but it is not related to me,” she said.

Panja is known for his proximity to the Chief Minister and considered one of her closest aides. His social media pages are peppered with his photos with Ms Banerjee. However, Panja was almost equally close to many top CPI-M leaders when the Left Front was in power.

While Panja is referred often as a “prominent businessman” it is not quite known the nature of his business. “He has no business as he is a plain racketeer, who takes loans from banks and never returns,” said one of his former associates.

He is the founder of a personal computer brand ‘Chirag’, which can hardly be located in the stores and he has also disassociated himself with the brand. However, he is an exceptionally moneyed person who has an obsession with films and stars and produced many commercial films with moderate success. About half a decade back he used to own a football club ‘Chirag United’ but disassociated later.

Panja was granted bail after he was produced in the Barrackpore Court until March 10.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 4:51:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/businessman-who-accompanied-mamata-to-dhaka-arrested/article6921948.ece

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