Chit fund scam: Toll mounts, opposition steps up heat for CBI probe (Roundup)

Kolkata, May 7 (IANS) The death count mounted in the Saradha chit fund scam which has rocked West Bengal with yet another agent ending his life, while the opposition stepped up pressure Tuesday on the Mamata Banerjee government to order a CBI inquiry into what is being perceived as the biggest financial scandal to hit the state.

Mrinal Mondal, an agent of a deposit-seeking firm in North 24 Parganas district’s Basirhat, was declared dead late Monday night in a city hospital where he was being treated after he consumed pesticide Sunday.

He was being hounded by investors after a shopping mall of the company in Basirhat closed down nearly a month ago.

“The owner of the company is absconding and the investors were hounding Mondal to refund their money. He sold a part of his land to pay back the investors,” said a family member of the 40-year-old.

So far, at least 10 lives have been reported lost after the chit fund scam exploded in the state.

Meanwhile, the Bidhannagar police commissionerate probing the scam, quizzed four more people, including a woman director of one of the Saradha group companies.

“We have interrogated four more persons… one is a director while two of them are business associates. The fourth person’s name came up during (arrested Saradha promoter) Sudipto Sen’s interrogation,” Bidhannagar Deputy Commissioner of Police Arnab Ghosh told media persons here Tuesday.

“We have sent out more notices and two more will be interrogated Wednesday,” said Ghosh.

According to sources, the four people summoned Tuesday were Sajjan Agarwal, Devika Dasgupta, Amitabh Sarkar and Debabrata Sarkar.

Ghosh told reporters that Dasgupta who was a director of one of the group’s companies, joined as a programme analyst at a monthly salary of Rs.6,000.

“She did not have any degree in software programming. She had a diploma in tourism and was doing her MBA. She had joined the group in mid-2008 as an entry level employee on a salary of Rs.6,000 but later on was hoodwinked into signing the appointment letters for the director’s post. She claims she did not know that she was being made the director. She blindly signed it,” Ghosh said.

The chit fund scam exploded last month after the Saradha Group companies went bust, and downed shutters across the state unable to repay the lakhs of depositors – mostly from rural areas and small towns – who had parked their hard-earned money lured by the huge interest rates promised by the company.

Meanwhile, stepping up the heat on the government, the opposition Left Front observed that a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe was imperative in the raging scam, and said it will meet the prime minister and the president in this regard.

“A delegation led by Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra will meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday in New Delhi on various issues including the chit fund scam,” Front chairman Biman Bose said here.

The state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) submitted a memorandum to Governor M.K. Narayanan echoing the demand for a CBI probe.

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