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Fraud scheme manager arrested
Saradha ripple effect on Aspen

April 21: Police today arrested the branch manager of an alleged fraud deposit scheme company in Burdwan’s Memari last night on the charge of not returning the investment of a bus conductor.

According to the police, 52-year-old conductor Amal Pal lodged a complaint that he wanted to withdraw Rs 1,800 after he sensed something was amiss with the company, Aspen Projects Ltd, when news of the Saradha Group fraud broke.

“I was approached by an agent who offered a scheme by which my money would be doubled in one and a half years. I was also told that I could withdraw from the scheme after three months and would get the invested amount back. I subscribed to the scheme in May last year and paid Rs 300 a month for six months,” Amal said.

“In November last year, I realised I would not be able to continue with the scheme and went to the office in Memari and asked for return of the invested sum in December.” He said the officials told him that the money once invested could not be withdrawn during the scheme period.

“I again went to the office in February, they told me the same thing. I was wondering what to do,” he said. Then the Saradha scam broke and I panicked.”

Yesterday afternoon, Amal went to the office with two friends. The guards stopped us but we forced our way in to manager Jayanta Das’s office. “I demanded my money. The manager tried to slap me and snatched my passbook. He called the guards and had us thrown out,” he said.

Amal and his friends told local people about what had happened inside. Prasun Ghosh, 27, a resident, said he saw Pal and his friends come out of the Aspen office.

“When they told us everything, about 20 of us accompanied them and forced our way inside. We caught the manager and asked him to explain what had happened. But the manager told us that Amal’s agent had misinformed him,” Ghosh said.

When locals alerted the police, they took Das away and arrested him later at night on the basis of a complaint lodged by Amal.

“We have arrested the branch manager of Aspen group and we have charged him with cheating and forgery,” said S.M.H. Meerza, the Burdwan superintendent of police. Das has been remanded in five days’ police custody.

Siliguri

CPM leader Asok Bhattacharya on Sunday demanded the removal of north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and an investigation into his possible connections with the Saradha Group’s alleged fraud deposit scheme.

The CPM leader also mentioned Trinamul leader and former Siliguri deputy mayor Ranjan Silsharma.

Asok told a news conference at Anil Biswas Bhavan today: “Yesterday, while the depositors and agents of Saradha Group were demonstrating in front of the office and demanding their money back, they named Gautam Deb and Ranjan Silsharma. The demonstrators also went to the North Bengal Development Department and submitted a memorandum addressed to the minister.”

He said: “As fingers have been raised against him, Gautam Deb should be immediately removed from the minister’s post. We also demand that investigations be conducted into the alleged links of the minister and Ranjan Silsharma with the group.”

Deb brushed aside the allegations. “We do not feel like commenting on statements made by a former state minister who holds no elected post now. The allegations are concocted and baseless,” he said.

Silsharma too denied having any connection with Saradha.

On the outskirts of Siligrui on Sunday, over 100 Saradha depositors barged into the house of Uday Choudhury, a company agent, demanding immediate repayment. Choudhury, fearing for his life, first fled but later returned with police escort.

Since morning, the depositors started gathering outside Choudhury’s house in ones and twos. When the mob confronted him asking for their money, the agent fled the spot.

Enraged, the mob stormed the house and broke furniture. Policemen brought Choudhury back and escorted him inside. It is not clear where he had fled.

Policemen, sources said, are still on the spot. Choudhury has not been arrested.