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Sen’s ‘bluff’, in a nutshell

Calcutta, May 8: Saradha owner Sudipta Sen had bought several companies in the past few years, not to produce anything but to showcase them to agents and depositors, police officers probing the default crisis said today.

In December 2009, Sen had bought 15 per cent of the West Bengal Awadhoot Agro Private Ltd in North 24-Parganas to impress upon his agents that the Saradha Group was diversifying, investigations have revealed.

The company, where the Bengal government had 1 per cent stake, used to churn out packaged coconut water but investigators have learnt that since Sen seized virtual control, not a single pouch came out of the plant.

“Soon after the acquisition, Sen held an agents’ meeting at the Science City auditorium to inform everyone how his group was investing in the agro industry and hence, there should be no cause for concern about the future of the investments,” said a senior officer of the investigation team.

“As with his other investments in industry, he knew from the beginning that there would be no production from the company. The move was aimed at encouraging his agents to bring in more funds. He would often tell the agents that Saradha’s assets were 10 times that of its liabilities,” the officer said.

Yesterday, interrogators questioned Amitava Sharma, the principal owner of West Bengal Awadhoot Agro Private Ltd, and learnt that Sen had approached him, claiming that he was in the agro business. The Saradha owner had virtually seized control of the company, promising to buy the entire unit and repaying all its bank loans, Sharma said.

“The company was set up in 2005 but it soon ran into trouble. Sen had promised to bail us out by buying my stake,” Sharma said.

“He paid off Rs 1.5 crore of our bank debt and paid another Rs 20 lakh to buy a part of my share,” Sharma added.

Sen had also taken control of Global Automobiles in Polba, Hooghly, and Landmark Cement in Bankura. “None of these ever produced anything,” the officer said.