Bengal chit fund promoter arrested in Kashmir

Srinagar/Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) In a major breakthrough in West Bengal’s chit fund muddle, Sudipto Sen, the chairman and managing director of the Saradha Group, was arrested from Sonmarg in Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday with two of his associates, police said.

“Based on information provided by the West Bengal Police, three people were detained by us from the Sonamarg tourist resort in Ganderbal district today (Tuesday),” a senior Jammu and Kashmir Police officer told IANS.

“The three detained people were brought down to Ganderbal district headquarters where an officer of the West Bengal Police who came here today (Tuesday) identified them as the main accused and two other people involved in the West Bengal chit fund scam,” the officer said.

The other two have been identified as company’s director Debjani Mukherjee and senior official Arvind Singh Chauhan.

Police sources said a larger team of other senior West Bengal Police officers investigating the scam is arriving here Wednesday to take custody of the arrested accused.

In Kolkata, Bidhan Nagar police commissioner Rajeev Kumar said that a Scorpio car with West Bengal number plate were found from the trio.

“After completing the legal formalities, we will produce them in court tomorrow (Wednesday) and bring them here,” he said.

The arrests ended a massive manhunt launched by the state police for Sen, who was untraceable since early last week after the Group went bust and its offices downed shutters unable to repay the depositors who had parked their hard-earned money lured by astronomically high interest rates promised by the company.

Mukherjee, the most trusted aide of Sen, is regarded as a key person in the chit fund muddle, as she is believed to be in the know of all his business dealings.

The young and ambitious Mukherjee, who took air hostess training but could not find a job in the sector joined the Group as a mere receptionist and rose fast in the hierarchy to become a director after gaining his confidence.

She now owns several luxurious flats in the city and at other places.

The Saradha Group is one of the largest chit fund companies in eastern India. It has also diversified into construction, realty, tourism, hospitality, agri-businesses and media.

As capital market regulator SEBI and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office of the union corporate affairs ministry started taking action against chit fund companies for flouting rules, which raised concerns over safety of public money, pressure on the group’s finances mounted.

Crisis in the group was brewing since January, which forced it to recently to wind up at least 10 media organisations – newspapers and television channels – that it had launched or acquired since 2010. Over 1,000 journalists and non-journalists have been rendered jobless.

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