Kolkata, May 3 (IANS) The toll in the multi-crore chit find scam in West Bengal rose to six with a “Ponzi” firm owner allegedly committing suicide while police unearthed 254 bank accounts of Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen and seized Rs.100 crore Friday.
The action around the chit fund muddle has reached the legal corridor, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) expressing its willingness to probe the scam if directed by the Calcutta High Court.
Meanwhile, the ruling Trinamool Congress yet again came under attack from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Congress for “lack of seriousness” in probing the scam that has already claimed five lives and devatated thousands, mostly the poor.
In the latest, sixth death, a man running a small chit fund company allegedly committed suicide after being harassed by investors who sought refund of their deposited money since the past few days.
“A middle-aged person named Ajit Seal was found dead inside his house today (Friday). We are investigating the cause of his death,” said an officer of the Ramnagar police station in East Midnapore district.
“He might have committed suicide,” added the officer.
All companies running chit funds or collective investment schemes are facing the heat ever since Sen’s chit fund-aided Saradha Group went bust and downed shutters across the state, unable to pay back lakhs of depositors who had parked their hard-earned money with the company, lured by the promise of huge returns.
Earlier, five agents and distributors of chit fund companies took their own lives.
Meanwhile, the Bidhannagar police commissionerate probing the case said they were looking into why the agencies which monitor such chit funds “did not” do their job.
In an oblique reference to the central agencies including the Securities and Exchange Board of India, which monitor collective investment schemes like the ones operated by the Saradha Group, Bidhannagar Deputy Commissioner of Police Arnab Ghosh said “it was clear” that such bodies did not do their job. However, he did not name any of the agencies.
“We have unearthed 254 bank accounts of Sen. We have so far seized approximately Rs.100 crore,” Ghosh told media persons here.
The commissionerate has taken into custody Sen and three other aides, who are now under intense grilling.
Meanwhile, Manoj Kumar Nagel, arrested director of one of the group companies, was produced in court which further remanded him to police custody till May 8.
The CPI-M-led Left Front, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as also two Trinamool MPs – Somen Mitra and Kabir Suman – have sought a CBI probe arguing that the matter extended to multiple states with questions being raised against Trinamool leaders. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has opposed a CBI probe at a rally here Thursday.
The CPI-M accused Banerjee of concealing facts and diverting attention from the chit fund mess in order to avoid a CBI inquiry.
“She is concealing more than what she is revealing,” said party leader Mohammad Salim.
He alleged that Banerjee had earlier given exclusive interviews to chit fund funded television channels, and ordered that newspapers brought out by such companies instead of the dailies with larger circulations be kept at the state-run libraries.
“She promoted these channels and newspapers. Her partymen headed the Saradha’s media group. If (Trinamool MP and actress) Shatabdi Roy was the official brand ambassador of the company, Banerjee was the unofficial brand ambassador.”
State Congress spokesman Om Prakash Mishra said the Trinamool Congress government was trying to put the issue on the back-burner.
“Everybody knows Trinamool government has links with the chit fund owners. So far, they have not taken a single step against them. Not even an FIR has been filed,” said Mishra.