Kolkata, April 29 (IANS) Taking forward investigation into the multi-billion crore rupee chit fund muddle that has rocked West Bengal, police Monday quizzed ruling Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh while Congress activists demonstrated on the streets demanding Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s resignation in the scam.
Nearly took weeks after the Saradha Group companies went bust and downed shutters across the state unable to repay the lakhs of depositors, the under-fire Mamata Banerjee government distributed leaflets asking investors to keep their money in small savings schemes in post offices.
Cautioning people about the uncertainties of putting their money in chit funds and non-banking financial companies, the leaflets said: “Don’t step into such allurement and get cheated. The government will have nothing to do in that case.”
Ghosh, who headed Saradha’s media arm – Saradha Publishing and Printing Pvt Ltd – was summoned to the Bidhannagar police commissionerate, which is probing the biggest financial scam to break in the state, and questioned for around 90 minutes.
Later, he rubbished allegations of complicity in the scam and claimed he was ignorant about the ‘Ponzi’ funding of the company.
“It is most unfortunate that I am being singled out when the rest of the media houses are still publishing advertisements of chit fund companies. I was a mere employee of the company. How would I know it was funded through chit fund,” claimed Ghosh, who used to get a monthly remuneration of Rs 15 lakh besides another Rs 1.50 lakh as allowances.
The Rajya Sabha member also claimed that the company officials had told him that the group’s media businesswas being funded through its export business.
“When you join any company as its employee, do you enquire about its directors or whether the company is being funded through chit fund money?” argued Ghosh, who has claimed to have put in their papers before the media arm was shut down completely.
Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen, behind bars and facing prosecution for cheating, had written to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) April 6, accusing several high profile Trinamool Congress and Congress leaders, including Ghosh, of complicity in the chit fund scam.
Ghosh also denied allegations that he coerced Sen into selling one of the media houses at a throwaway price.
“At that time (2009) I was neither a parliamentarian nor a member of the Trinamool. Being a mere journalist did I have the power to intimidate a powerful businessman?” added Ghosh, against whom his employees have filed two police complaints alleging financial irregularities.
The collapse of the group has already resulted in four agents and depositors committing suicide, while its offices have been attacked and ransacked with the ruling Trinamool in a spot over allegations of links of its leaders – including MPs and a minister – with the group.
Through the day, Sen faced intense police grilling, but his lawyers claimed he was confident.
“He is confident that he has done no mistake. When the government has formed a commission, that is the final authority,” said his lawyer, who was present during the interrogation.
Meanwhile, slogan shouting Congress activists demonstrated before the state secretariat and the Assembly demanding Banerjee’s resignation and Ghosh’s arrest. They also staged a protest when Ghosh was about to board his vehicle after being questioned by police.
Tthe state assembly began a two-day special session to pass a bill – West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Bill, 2013 – to rein in chit funds.
However, the opposition Left Front attacked the government for seeking to withdraw an earlier bill passed by the legislature and pass a new one without any explanation.
Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, contended that the withdrawal of the West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Institutions Bill without giving proper explanation and reasons was unconstitutional.