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Cementing force Saradha bought

- Unlocked gate, stone-like stocks and doors missing at factory

Calcutta, Aug. 20: Two Enforcement Department (ED) officials today visited the Bankura cement factory that a minister sold to the Saradha Group in 2009.

ED assistant director Manoj Kumar and enforcement officer N.K. Mosha spent about an hour on the premises of the closed Landmark Cement Company Ltd factory in Beliatore, which textiles minister Shyamapada Mukherjee used to co-own.

The visit came two days after the ED questioned Mukherjee in connection with the Saradha case.

The cement factory has been lying closed since Saradha chief Sudipta Sen’s arrest in April last year.

According to a former employee who accompanied the two ED officers, the duo were surprised to see the main gate of the factory compound unlocked and the absence of security measures. The central agency officers were not available for comment.

The source, who did not wish to be named, said the ED officers inspected sacks of cement, which had hardened into stone blocks because of prolonged exposure. The two officials also checked the condition of the plant and the boundary wall.

Sources said one of the objectives of the officers’ visit was to assess the factory’s assets and estimate its net worth and compare them with the statements made by minister Mukherjee.

The source said the ED officers “noted” that “most doors and windows of the cement factory and parts of machines were missing”.

Yesterday, Saradha chief Sen had alleged that properties of the group were being looted across the state.

The source said the ED officers called Ashok Banerjee, the former supervisor of the factory, and asked him why the plant was in such a poor condition.

Banerjee said later: “After the Saradha default scam came to light, the owners stopped paying salaries to the employees. No production has taken place for over a year and all employees and security staff have stopped coming.”

Textiles minister Mukherjee, who was with the Congress before defecting to Trinamul and had been the chairman of the Bishnupur municipality, said today that he had sold the cement factory for Rs 2.81 crore. “Of this, I received Rs 46 lakh after bank dues were cleared.”

He denied that Sen had been pressurised to buy the factory at a higher price.

After being questioned by the ED on Monday, Mukherjee had told reporters: “I had been given Rs 46 lakh for the cement company. I was asked to submit documents such as my income-tax returns, the agreement for the sale of the factory and other papers. The cement company was sold way back in 2009 and I did not know Sudipta Sen then.”