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Battling barbs, Arpita gets ED call

Arpita Ghosh in Balurghat on Sunday. Picture by
Mithun Roy

April 20: The Enforcement Directorate has served a notice on Arpita Ghosh, Trinamul’s Lok Sabha candidate from Balurghat, asking her to share information regarding the functioning of the Saradha Group’s companies.

The agency sent the notice yesterday to Sishu Kishore Academy, an institution in Calcutta where Arpita was a chairperson, making her the first ruling party candidate to be called by the central probe agency for questioning in the default case.

ED officials said the agency sent the letter to her because she was a former employee of a Saradha channel, Ekhon Samay, which never aired.

Arpita had lodged a case against Saradha owner Sudipta Sen, accusing him of not paying her salary for four months.

“We served her the notice seeking to collect information about the functioning of the Saradha Group’s companies. We also want to know about her salary details,” an ED official said today.

Arpita told The Telegraph later in the evening that the ED “called me up and asked me if I had any documents related to the accounts and documents from Delhi required for running a channel. I told them I don’t have any such documents. I was the executive editor of the channel.”

She said the ED wanted a written statement, which she would give after the April 24 election in Balurghat.

“They had sent the notice to Shishu Kishore Academy. Since I have resigned, I did not receive the notice,” the Trinamul candidate said.

Earlier in the day, Arpita called a news conference to say she had filed a complaint with the Election Commission against the BJP and the CPM for maligning her.

Arpita, a theatre personality seen as close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, hit out at her rivals at a time BJP, CPM and Congress leaders have started piling pressure on Trinamul over the scam.

Arpita said she would file a defamation suit against Balurghat CPM leader Manabesh Chaudhury, who had called her, the chief minister and several other Trinamul leaders “chor (thief)” on his Facebook page.

Rubbishing the charge that she was a beneficiary of the Saradha Group, Arpita said she was the first in the state to file a case against Sen.

She said she had “been hearing for the past few days that Left Front leaders are telling people that I am not a cultural personality, rather I am more popular as a Saradha employee”.

“They are saying that I used to get Rs 5 lakh as salary at Saradha. They are also making a propaganda that I would be sent to jail very soon after the Lok Sabha election. After hearing these things, we decided to counter the attacks,” Arpita said.

She said: “As I did not get my salary, I filed an FIR against Sudipta Sen which was the first in the state. On the basis of that complaint, Sen was arrested.”

Arpita said rival parties had also said she was a sister of Kunal Ghosh, the MP and the former head of Saradha’s media wing who has been arrested.

But the Opposition kept up the pressure. Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told a rally in Murshidabad today: “Where have the crores of rupees of Saradha gone? Those in Trinamul who have taken money from Saradha would be exposed.”

Sen’s daughter-in-law — the wife of his son Subhojit who has been arrested — was served a notice by the ED.

Priyanka Sen Bandopadhyay spent nine hours in the Central Government Office complex in Salt Lake where she was asked to produce her bank documents. “Priyanka is not a suspect. We may consider her a witness,” an official said.

“We wanted to know whether Sudipta’s money was routed through Priyanka’s account. So far, we haven’t found anything suspicious,” the official added.

According to sources, the officials wanted to cross-check the statements given by Subhojit during interrogation. “We asked her details about her husband’s assets. She co-operated,” the official said.