Where there is a will, not bill, there is a way - Cops seal two firms’ offices

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  • Published 3.05.13

May 2: Two companies running investment schemes have been shut down in Bengal within 48 hours of little more than an assertion by the chief minister, raising questions why the Trinamul government dragged its feet on Saradha by citing lack of legislation and complaints.

Police have sealed some offices of MPS Greenery Developers Ltd and Prayag Infotech Hi-Rise Ltd following complaints of cheating. Both figure on a list of companies against which the Centre had received complaints.

The action, which came within hours of the chief minister saying two unnamed firms would be sealed, suggested that the police could have clamped down on Saradha, too, had they received a political clearance in the absence of a legislation. Instead, Trinamul leaders provided legitimacy to Saradha by associating themselves with the company’s events.

The police justified the action on Prayag, some ads of which feature actor Shah Rukh Khan, and MPS by citing complaints by two investors in Kolaghat and Panskura.

Had the state government had the intent, it could easily have warned investors earlier when small savings deposits started to dip and many complaints would have poured in — as is the case now — against Saradha.

Taking cognisance of the two complaints, East Midnapore police approached the chief judicial magistrate of Tamluk, seeking an order to seize, seal and search the offices of the two companies across the state.

The court instructed police stations concerned to seal the offices of the two companies to prevent tampering or theft of evidence, sources said.

That does not mean that the new bill passed on Tuesday was not needed at all — legislative clarity helps in liquidating assets to refund investors. But even in the absence of a specific law, a precedent exists where the Left government had moved court and seized the assets of a company to repay depositors.

The possibility of a legal challenge to the sealing is not ruled out. However, such a clampdown earlier would have sent a loud warning shot and deterred many poor people from investing their life savings in Saradha.

MPS Group chairman and managing director P.N. Manna said he was “baffled” by the police action.

“The police came to our office at Mecheda and Calcutta and did not allow anybody to enter. They did not show us any order. We are yet to get any communication from any constituent of the government. I am baffled by this action. Why single out MPS, which has never defaulted in making payments?” he said.

“We showed the police a Calcutta High Court order allowing us to carry on collective investment schemes but they did not listen to us. Even Sebi had given us a provisional registration. But later, it denied us final registration. We went to Calcutta High Court against Sebi. The court ruled in our favour and that is how MPS is doing business. How can any government prevent a company that is fully complying with all the laws of the land? I do not know if there is politics involved. We are discussing with our lawyers how to deal with the situation,” Manna added.

Calls and a text message to a mobile phone of Aveek Bagchi, the Prayag owner, were not answered.

A police picket has been posted at the corporate branch of MPS Greenery Developers on 32 Chowringhee Road.

“The company has offices on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and eighth floor of the building. Since this morning, no one has been allowed to enter the offices,” said a security guard of Om Towers which houses the offices.

Group chairman Manna, who used to come to the office in a Range Rover escorted by private security guards in two vehicles, had last come on Friday, sources at Om Towers said.

“It seems he knew this was going to happen. He used to come almost every day. But after Friday, he did not turn up. None of the 500-odd MPS employees who work in the building knew about the closure. The police did not allow them to enter when they came this morning,” a technician said.

No police picket was seen at the company’s head office at MPS Enclave in Lake Town. “We will deploy personnel when we feel it is needed,” said an officer of Lake Town police station, which is under the jurisdiction of the Bidhannagar commissionerate that is probing the Saradha default case.

The corporate office and the head office of Prayag Infotech Hi-Rise limited on Bhupen Bose Roy Road in Behala and 15 India Exchange Place were also sealed by the police.

“Access to two offices of Prayag Infotech Hi-Rise limited on Bhupen Bose Roy Road in Behala and India Exchange Place, and an office of MPS Greenery Developers Limited on Chowringhee Road has been controlled,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, the joint commissioner (crime).

“We acted on the order of a court in the likelihood of disappearance and tampering of evidence,” Ghosh added.