Gautam Deb (seated) receives the ‘witness notice’ from the officer-in-charge of Bidhannagar South police station at 11.40pm on Tuesday at the CPM leader’s Salt Lake home. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, April 29: Police late tonight served a Saradha case “witness notice” on CPM leader Gautam Deb on a day he raised several questions about the wealth allegedly amassed by the relatives of chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The “witness notice” means that Deb has been asked to appear at the Electronics Complex police station in Sector V tomorrow for questioning in a Saradha-related case.
The dramatic developments on the eve of the third round of Lok Sabha elections had started unfolding soon after Deb wrapped up his news conference at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street around 3.30pm. Deb had said something was “wrong about her DNA”, prompting Trinamul leader Firhad Hakim to say “even the moon has blemishes but she has none”.
Within 30 minutes, the Bidhannagar police swung into rapid action — something that was not too much in evidence over the past one year while the Saradha case was being investigated. The case had been registered almost a year ago in May last year but the police did not cite any reason in public why they decided to move today — that too after Deb had levelled charges against the chief minister’s family.
At 4pm, the inspector in charge of Bidhannagar South police station reached the Salt Lake home of Deb to deliver the letter but the CPM central committee member was not at home then.
The officer went to Deb’s home again at 10pm but the politician still had not returned home. The police told Deb’s son to inform them once his father came back. Deb’s son Saptarshi called the police around 11.30pm.
At 11.40pm, a police team reached the house for the third time in less than eight hours and handed Deb a letter asking him to appear at the police station to answer “certain questions” on one of the Saradha cases.
Asked if he will go, Deb said: “It is difficult to tell.”
“Didimoni wants me to spend a night in the lock-up,” he added.
The letter from the Electronics Complex officer-in-charge asked Deb to appear before him at 2pm on Wednesday because he was “acquainted with the circumstances of the case”.
“I have many meetings lined up tomorrow,” Deb told reporters close to midnight. “I will let the police know in advance if I can’t make it. It is a police station that I had once set up and I would like to go and see how it is doing now.”
The summons to Deb is in connection with Case No. 102, where a Saradha depositor had filed a complaint of cheating against an agent. The Bidhannangar police had cited this case to break open a locker jointly held by Sudipta Sen and his wife Piyali at the United Bank of India’s BD block branch and got embroiled in a tussle with the central Enforcement Directorate over who had the right to its contents.
Like “Operation Deb”, the locker was also opened at night in haste just to thwart the directorate attempts to gain access.
“I don’t know (Saradha boss) Sudipta Sen. I haven’t spoken to him even once. You can check my call records. But you will have to find out why Mamata Banerjee had once met him close to midnight in Kalimpong,” Deb said.
At the media conference on Alimuddin Street, Deb had said Mamata’s family — her brothers and their wives — had amassed property valued at Rs 20 crore in the city. “I am not saying that the chief minister’s family members cannot purchase land and flats or any other property. But my question is, how were the funds mobilised and whether such huge property transactions took place under the influence of somebody in the family,’’ Deb added.
Deb said tonight that people could draw their own conclusion between the “coincidence” of the summons and his revelations. “You can figure this out,” he said.
Deb said that earlier, too, attempts had been made to arrest him. “If I’m proved guilty I’m willing to go to jail,” he said. “But if I’m summoned, Mamata, too, should be summoned by the police. She has to answer questions on her links with the Saradha group and the earnings from her paintings.”
While rebutting Deb’s charges earlier in the day, minister Hakim had referred to Deb’s alleged links with Saradha boss Sen, claiming that the CPM leader used to benefit from the fund-mobilising company.
Hakim read out excerpts from a letter purportedly written by a former Hidco public relations officer, Anjan Bhattacharya, who later served in the public relations wing of the Saradha Group allegedly on the recommendation of Deb. Deb was Hidco chairman when the Left was in power.
According to Hakim, Bhattacharya had said in his statement that Sen used to regularly send Deb loaded white envelopes allegedly containing details of “under-the-table deals”.
Urban development minister and Trinamul leader Firhad Hakim shared two inspirational stories with Bengal on Tuesday — one on how good and trusting neighbours here are that they swap tax details and another on the state being a land of spectacular opportunities.
The occasion: Trinamul media conference to rebut charges by CPM leader Gautam Deb that property worth Rs 20 crore had been bought by Mamata Banerjee’s brothers and sisters-in-law
Hakim: They (Mamata’s relatives) file their tax returns and do their business honestly.... They run their own households, separately from Didi. Didi has nothing to do
Question: If the chief minister has nothing to do with the relatives, how do you know about their business details?
Hakim: I have been closely attached to the family for 25 years. I am a neighbour. We have all, practically, grown up together. They are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and lead honest lives. I know these things because I am so close
Question: How many businessmen do you know who have started from scratch and made it big?
Hakim: I am an example. I too have a business (paints and real estate). I too started from scratch. I made it without ever doing anything that is against the law or unethical. Having a livelihood while actively pursuing politics is no crime. It is our right granted by the Constitution, as long as we pay our taxes and live as honest citizens. (Hakim’s 2011 Assembly poll affidavit showed a cumulative figure of Rs 3.65 crore in movable and immovable assets.)
CHARGES AND REBUTTAL ON PAGE 8