United departure, separated arrival

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  • Published 25.04.13

April 24: Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen and his two aides were brought to Calcutta tonight on a four-day transit remand granted by a court in Kashmir where they were arrested yesterday.

The court in Ganderbal, near the Sonamarg resort town from where they were picked up, granted the transit remand for Sen, Debjani Mukherjee and Arvind Singh Chauhan to a six-member team of Bidhannagar police.

A large police contingent escorted the trio to the court. Several Kashmiri lawyers volunteered to plead their case.

“It was after our plea that the court rejected the prosecution’s prayer to grant them seven days’ transit remand and instead sent them on four days’ remand. We wanted them to be produced before a court in Calcutta at the earliest. Mr Sen thanked us,” said Khursheed Bhat, their lawyer.

Inside the chief prosecutor’s room in Ganderbal, Sen and his aides stood calm for much of the one hour they spent there. “They briefly talked to each other. Sen briefly chatted about law and order problems in Bengal,” an officer in the room said.

Another senior officer said Sen had told him he was willing to return the money of Saradha investors. “He said he has a lot of assets in Bengal and given an opportunity, he will dispose them of to return the money,” the officer said.

Kashmir police sources said the three looked calm and composed during their 24-hour stay at the police lines.

“They were not like prisoners. Sudipta and Arvind weren’t nervous at all but Debjani appeared a little worried. The three took a stroll on the lawns of the compound after they reached here yesterday afternoon,” a Kashmir officer said.

At the police lines, Sen and Arvind were put in one room and Debjani in the other. “An eight-member police team, including two women constables, were put on guard outside their rooms,” he said.

The camp is highly protected and also houses a CRPF company. “In fact, we asked the CRPF cooks to prepare food for them,” the officer said. At Srinagar airport, unlike regular passengers, the three were kept in the airport manager’s cabin till their GoAir flight was announced. Sources said the trio were given a middle seat in different parts of the plane, each flanked by two Bidhannagar cops.

Through the 90-minute flight, the sources said, Sen kept his head lowered. He expressed unwillingness to eat anything, saying he was “not comfortable flying”.

After the plane touched down in Delhi around 6.20pm, the three spent close to two hours in a lounge often used by VIPs. They were led to the departure gate moments before their 8.20pm SpiceJet flight to Calcutta, after all the other passengers had boarded.

The separation continued in the Delhi lounge where the three were made to sit apart. The sources said they did not try to talk to each other. Debjani was seen hiding her face in a dupatta occasionally. Chauhan was sometimes seen glancing at Sen.

Sen walked to the departure gate, a small bag in one hand, the other arm held tightly by one of the Bengal police officers. The Saradha boss appeared weak.

As he covered the few metres to the departure gate, The Telegraph asked Sen several times about his letter to the CBI and the reason for fleeing Calcutta but he stared blankly at the reporter.

A SpiceJet airhostess guided Sen and Chauhan, walking a few metres behind each other, and the officers to the plane. Debjani, trained to be an airhostess, was led through a separate gate.

In Calcutta, where they landed a little after 10.15pm, Sen and his accomplices were taken out of gate 1A of the domestic terminal, after the other passengers had left, and bundled into a police van.

Police sources said that while Chauhan was taken to the Electronics Complex police station in Salt Lake, Sen and Debjani were taken to New Town police station. They will be produced in court tomorrow.

“The three had nothing on their way, barring tea and biscuits. While Debjani broke down occasionally, Sen maintained his composure and even said he would co-operate in every way,” said an officer.

The Scorpio in which Sen and the others had travelled to Kashmir will be brought to Bengal. “Bengal police are sending a driver,” an officer in Ganderbal said.