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Saradha quiz for singer in Calcutta

Guwahati, Aug. 29: Singer and filmmaker Sadananda Gogoi was flown to Calcutta for questioning by the CBI on the Saradha scam today while AASU admitted to taking Rs 7.5 lakh from the group as donation and Dispur closed the office of another deposit-collecting company in the state.

A CBI source said the singer, whose residence was searched yesterday along with 11 other locations in the city, is likely to be interrogated by CBI officials in Calcutta tomorrow.

There have been allegations that Sadananda acted as a link between Saradha group and politicians and top police officials in the state to protect Saradha’s business interests.

“According to Sudipta Sen, around Rs 6 crore was paid to ensure political and police patronage for Saradha’s business ventures in the state and the deal was allegedly facilitated by the singer. We are currently verifying it,” the source said.

The CBI also searched the residence of journalist Manoranjana Sinh at Kharghuli and the office of Frontier Television, a Guwahati-based satellite television channel she used to run, at Maligaon today. The television channel stopped functioning from May this year.

An eight-member CBI team entered the office of the TV channel at 2.45pm and continued its search for about two hours. The team came out of the channel’s office at 4.45pm. “Can’t say anything,” one of them told The Telegraph, when asked if the search would continue tomorrow.

The CBI sleuths had earlier sealed the office as part of their investigation into the Saradha scam. “They (CBI officers) were looking into documents inside the office,” one of the guards accompanying the team said.

Sinh said investments made by Saradha in Frontier TV was a matter of official records and there was nothing to hide. She said there was a legal agreement with Saradha chief Sudipta Sen, who later backtracked from the agreement. She said she was happy that the CBI had taken up the investigation and that she had herself written to the then Prime Minister seeking a CBI probe after the scam was unearthed.

The CBI may also question former Assam minister and Congress MLA Himanta Biswa Sarma and former Assam DGP Shankar Barua in Calcutta, sources in the agency said. Their houses were searched yesterday along with that of senior Congress MLA Anjan Dutta, who for the second day running clarified that his was a business deal.

Dibon Deka, publisher of Sakalbela, a newspaper that the Saradha Group had launched in Assam, had alleged on April 23 last year that Barua, while he was DGP, had accepted money from Saradha to protect its “business interests”. Deka also alleged that Sadananda Gogoi, who was secretary of the State Publication Board, had “assisted the group’s business ventures in the state”.

“All administrative problems that the group faced would be handled by Sadananda through (Himanta Biswa) Sarma,” Deka had alleged.

Sen, in his purported letter to the CBI, had also claimed that Sarma had taken money from him.

The Kamrup (metro) administration this evening sealed the office of Rose Valley Chain Marketing System Limited, a deposit-collecting company, following a directive from the chief minister to carry out a drive against all Guwahati-based chit fund companies to check fraud.

The raid comes a day after the CBI carried out searches in the city in connection with the Saradha scam.

Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner M. Angamuthu told The Telegraph that they had sealed the office of Rose Valley in Ulubari for not obtaining the mandatory no-objection certificate from the administration to carry out its business under the Assam Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Institutions) (Amendment) Bill, 2013, passed by the Assembly last year.

Under the amended law, deposit-collecting companies will have to secure the permission of the district administration in the state to operate.

“We also found Rose Valley not adhering to Reserve Bank of India and Sebi guidelines to function as a non-banking financial company. We will intensify our drive against all chit fund companies based in Guwahati,” Angamuthu said.

Dispur had brought in the Assam Protection of Interests of Depositors (in Financial Institutions) (Amendment) Bill, 2013, following the hue and cry triggered by the Saradha scam.

The legislation authorises the government to set up fast-track courts to try any complaint of cheating by financial institutions. Those convicted would face between five and 10 years in jail and will also have to cough up anything between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh in fine under the amended law.

The All Assam Students’ Union today laid to rest speculation about its president’s house being searched here. At a news meet held here this afternoon, the AASU said the CBI team visited the residence of its president Sankar Prasad Ray yesterday as part of its inquiry into the Saradha scam. Ray told reporters that the AASU took Rs 7.5 lakh in three instalments as donation.

“We (AASU) take donation from various organisations. In 2011, Saradha also offered donation to our organisation. I told the CBI team that it was correct that we had accepted donation. We had accepted the money in cheques. We welcome the CBI probe into the Saradha scam and are ready to help them,” he said.

“There is nothing new about us taking donations from business establishments to run our organisation. But whatever (we) received is white money. We accepted it in cheques,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya said.

Hours earlier, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti had demanded that if any organisation of the state was involved in the scam, it should not be spared by the CBI.