| Pal at the Bolpur court. Picture by Soumi Bhattacharya
Santiniketan, Oct. 19: Police and CBI officials who grilled Sumantra Pal, arrested in the Santiniketan art bust case, have said the clerk with Visva-Bharati’s Sangeet Bhavan had assets disproportionate to his income.
Pal owns a Bolero, a Maruti Omni and at least two hotels in Bolpur town, a CBI official who interrogated Pal today said.
“He carried out his business of selling stolen or fake paintings from two studios in Bolpur and Galsi. He also owns a studio in Mumbai and one in another state, which we are not disclosing right now,” the official said.
Officials said Pal received a monthly pay of about Rs 10,000, which was inadequate to maintain the assets he owned. “He was also a popular moneylender in Sangeet Bhavan and other departments. Teachers and non-teaching employees borrowed money from him whenever they needed,” said a CBI investigator. “We are probing whether he has more assets.”
During interrogation, Pal also confessed to using a fake press card while travelling in local trains.
After interrogating Pal, the police said it appeared that only the tip of the iceberg had been exposed. “It is a big racket. We have been able to catch only a few persons. There are many others on our list of suspects and we are keeping a watch on them. We will nab them when the time comes,” said Bolpur sub-divisional police officer Debashis Dhar.
Pal, a former student of Visva-Bharati, was produced before the court of additional chief judicial magistrate Debashis Haldar and was remanded in police custody for five days.
He is one of the seven persons arrested in connection with the case. Among the other arrested persons are Rohitashwa Ghosh, owner of a studio in Bolpur, and Sukumar Das, owner of a lodge.
Asked whether Pal would be suspended from his job, Visva-Bharati public relations officer Amitabha Chowdhury said the police were yet to inform the varsity about the arrest.
During interrogation Pal claimed he had a licence to deal in paintings but could not produce it, officials said.
The CBI officials also asked him why he had not said anything about the paintings by famous painters in his possession when he was questioned after the Nobel heist.
“Pal did not tell us then about the paintings gifted by renowned artists to his father Rabi Pal (former curator of Rabindra Bhavan). We are hopeful of finding a clue that may help us bust the Nobel heist case,” said Partha Sarathi Bose, CBI deputy superintendent of police.