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CBI reads riot act on Saradha

- Agency tightens screws, CM schedules Delhi trip
Ranjit Sinha

New Delhi, July 22: The CBI has served Bengal police an “ultimatum” to hand over all the Saradha-related documents it has sought by July 31 or face legal action for suppression and destruction of evidence that can lead to jail.

Later in the evening, Trinamul sources revealed that Mamata Banerjee would visit Delhi sometime between August 3 and 7 and “most likely” meet the Prime Minister, whom she had attacked relentlessly during the general election campaign.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Telegraph in New Delhi: “We have given Bengal police an ultimatum to hand over all the crucial files relating to the Saradha scam by July 31. Failing that, we shall have no option but to take legal action against them.”

He said the agency would “soon” start questioning prominent Bengal politicians whom it suspects of a role in the deposit-collection and payment-default scam.

“We will question everyone, including politicians from Bengal, soon. We are waiting for the crucial documents from Bengal police and will start our next course of action after July 31,” Sinha said.

CBI sources hinted that two senior officers from the Bidhannagar commissionerate had suppressed crucial evidence. Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate too had moved court alleging non-cooperation by Bengal police.

A month ago, the CBI had written to the Bengal director-general of police for crucial documents but there has been no response so far, an agency official said.

“They gave us several documents, including the case file, copies of the FIR and list of seizures by them. But despite the reminder a month ago, they are yet to part with crucial documents, including the bank account details of Sen and other key suspects,” the CBI officer said. “If they fail to hand over these documents, we shall inform the Supreme Court and file cases against them for suppression and destruction of evidence.”

Under Section 204 of the Indian Penal Code, these charges carry a maximum punishment of two years in jail.

The CBI officer cited how Bidhannagar police had rushed to a Salt Lake bank close to midnight on April 22 to break open the sealed locker of Piyali Sen, wife of Saradha chief Sudipta Sen, and removed the contents. He described it as “very suspicious”.

A Bengal police officer had confirmed to this newspaper that the sole objective behind the nocturnal operation was to stop the Enforcement Directorate from opening the locker.

“It seems there is an effort to shield influential people and some Bengal politicians,” a CBI officer said.

Trinamul Rajya Sabha member K.D. Singh tonight told this newspaper: “Didi is coming to Delhi in the first week of next month. A meeting with the Prime Minister is most likely.”

Such a meeting would be the first one-to-one between Mamata and Narendra Modi since their verbal battle during electioneering, when his references to Saradha drew a furious reaction from her.

Mamata herself had dropped hints about a Delhi trip. “I’ll go to Delhi soon. I have some personal work. If I go, I will definitely speak about Bengal’s demands,” she said on Saturday.

CBI sources said the preliminary probe had “revealed the involvement of politicians and influential people” in the Saradha scandal.

“We have found a larger conspiracy. Lakhs of small investors became bankrupt in Bengal. We want to know the entire details of bank accounts, how Saradha collected deposits in the districts with the promise of high returns and where the money was funnelled,” an officer said.

“We are also probing whether politicians had aided the cash collection operations of the Saradha Group.”