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A locker too far

Calcutta, April 21: Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials today went to a nationalised bank’s branch in Salt Lake to check the locker of Piyali Sen, the wife of Saradha boss Sudipta Sen, but were denied access, a source said.

“The ED officials wanted to search the locker but were denied access. It is because the Biddhannagar police had told the branch to do so but not in writing,” said the source.

ED officials neither confirmed nor denied the claim. Biddhannagar police, which function under the state government but were unable to arrest Sen’s wife and son, officially denied the claim.

Bijoy Mohanty, the manager of the United Bank of India branch in BD block, said: “I am not authorised to comment on this matter.”

However, an officer in the Biddhannagar police commissionerate said: “We initiated the probe first. We had asked the bank officials verbally not to allow any other agency to access the locker in order to protect possible evidence.”

Asked whether the instruction still stands, the officer said on condition of anonymity: “It may be.”

The ED had earlier accused the Biddhannagar police of non-cooperation in the Saradha case. The central agency had then moved the high court and secured an order asking the Biddhannagar police to co-operate with the ED.

“If an investigation agency has specific cases against a person, it can search his or her locker for the sake of the probe. If access is denied, the agency can secure a court order and access the locker,” said a senior police officer not connected with the case.

Last Saturday, the ED had searched Piyali’s locker in a private bank’s Salt Lake branch and seized ornaments without encountering any encumbrance.

The ED is also trying to trace the trail of Rs 1.85 lakh withdrawn from Piyali’s bank savings account some time ago. “We had information that the amount was withdrawn to pay a political party. We suspect it was used to purchase a painting by a political leader. When Piyali was asked whether the money was withdrawn to purchase the painting, she denied it,” said an ED official. “But she has not yet explained how the money was spent.”