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Probe heat back on ‘cheat’ funds

Ranchi, May 11: Jharkhand has welcomed the Supreme Court ruling on May 9, ordering CBI probe into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam in Bengal and similar ponzi schemes in Odisha, Assam and Tripura, a verdict that may ensure more stringent curbs on private fiscal savings operators across all states.

Pre-empting the apex court ruling by a day, the double bench of Jharkhand High Court on Thursday, May 8, comprising chief justice S. Banumathi and justice Shree Chandrashekhar directed superintendents of police across 24 districts to head these probes supervised by DGP Rajeev Kumar. The court directed police to complete probes related with Saradha and similar firms within a year. It also asked police to submit a progress report in Raj Mobile Com, a home-grown Jaduguda chit fund scam worth allegedly Rs 1,200 crore.

Acting chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty and DGP Rajeev Kumar have welcomed the CBI probe.

“Most chit fund companies enjoy political patronage. I have asked the DGP to list cases against chit fund companies in Jharkhand and probe them. After all, poor and hardworking people have lost their money,” Chakraborty said.

“Good if the CBI takes up the cases. Our economic offence wing will extend all help,” DGP Kumar said.

CBI joint director (Bihar-Jharkhand) A.K. Singh said they would give all aid.

In 2013, when the Saradha scam surfaced in Bengal, Jharkhand department of institutional finance started monitoring 28 chit fund companies, including Alchemist Infra Realty Ltd (AIRL), which had earned a dubious tag from Sebi and subsequently bared a scam worth Rs 1,000 crore. Rose Valley and Saradha Realty India Limited were two other notables. The state banned all three at different times last year.

But high drama surrounds most ‘cheat’ fund probes.

Though the Saradha scam is primarily seen as Bengal-based and the apex court did not mention Jharkhand by name, thousands of small investors in the state lost money when the finance consortium went bust. The sum of Saradha losses incurred by Jharkhand is not yet estimated, though its Ranchi office on Ratu Road, dubbed “regional office”, has its shutters down since a year and one Ranchi-based Ajay Kumar moved civil court against it.

AIRL, sister concern of Alchemist Group owned by Trinamool Congress MP K.D. Singh of Bengal, boasts many fraud cases in Jharkhand. Sebi barred it from raising money and Jharkhand government sealed its offices, including those in Dhanbad and Santhal Pargana last year.

AIRL moved high court last year to ‘unseal’ its business premises and allow business activities. The single bench of Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh quashed the petition as SEBI, RBI and state government accused AIRL of financial fraud. AIRL challenged it before a high court double bench D.N. Patel and Shree Chandrashekhar again later in 2013. Again, the court relied on Sebi report and remarked that the AIRL had allegedly swindled over Rs 1,000 crore of investor money.

A case (clubbing 25 different complaints) against AIRL and 16 others were lodged at Deoghar town thana (543/2013) by sub-judicial magistrate Joy Jyoti Samanta in September 2013. Deoghar DSP Naveen Sharma is in charge of the investigation.

“No arrest has been made,” Samanta rued.

In Santhal Pargana’s Godda, two chit fund companies — Sun Sigh Global Agro Limited and Sun Plant — have directors Masood Mohammad, Jawaharlal Yadav and Ramlakhan Yadav with alleged political links. Jawaharlal Yadav is seen in public events with RJD leader Suresh Paswan.

Public pressure has also kept the heat on chit funds. Currently, three PILs are pending before high court. Two are filed by one Babloo Kumar (3795/ 2013 against Saradha and 35 more chit fund companies in Jharkhand and 3052/ 2013 against 70 other schemes).

A petition by one Sanjay Kumar Lakra (6536/ 2013), which demands CBI probe into the Raj Mobile Com scam, refers to the chit fund floated by two enterprising brothers Kamal and Deepak Singh. The brothers are absconding. Investigating officer N.K. Das, station in-charge of Jaduguda police station, said: “We will soon file a chargesheet.”