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CBI reloads Saradha gun with old ammo

A section of officials said in private the application was nothing but a predictable political 'ploy' ahead of the Assembly elections, and sounded more like 'a BJP press release'

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui New Delhi Published 27.12.20, 01:43 AM
Rajeev Kumar

Rajeev Kumar File picture

The CBI has filed an interim application before the Supreme Court in the Saradha case saying “the chief minister, West Bengal” and jailed prime accused Sudipta Sen had close links and seeking custodial interrogation of former Calcutta police commissioner Rajeev Kumar.

The application, which comes in the run-up to next summer’s Assembly polls, claims the “highest state authorities” had colluded with Saradha and other companies accused of running deposit-mobilisation scams, and “deliberately scuttled” the CBI’s investigation.

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“It is submitted that examination of (Trinamul spokesperson, former MP and Saradha accused) Kunal Kumar Ghosh by the Enforcement Directorate during October 2013 revealed that the chief minister, West Bengal, and promoter of M/s Saradha Group Sudipta Sen, had very good relationship. It is submitted that the same establishes that the CM, Bengal used to talk to Sudipta Sen using phone of Kunal Kumar Ghosh,” the application says.

A section of CBI officials said in private the application was nothing but a predictable political “ploy” ahead of the Assembly elections, and sounded more like “a BJP press release”.

“This was in the pipeline. The political bosses were waiting for an opportune time,” a CBI official said, requesting anonymity. He said the affidavit did not mean anything legally since no evidence had been furnished but was intended at giving the BJP ammunition to attack chief minister Mamata Banerjee directly ahead of the elections.

“If the agency has new evidence, it should have presented it before the trial court and filed a fresh chargesheet,” he said.

Instead, he said, it has used an application for Rajeev’s custodial interrogation as an excuse to repeat mostly old allegations against Mamata, without naming her directly but referring to her post, and try to make them appear more credible by taking them to the Supreme Court.

Several Trinamul politicians have been accused in the 2013 scam. The BJP has used it as a political weapon to target Mamata and her party but she had returned to power with a bigger majority in the 2016 Assembly elections.

Opposition parties have long been accusing the Narendra Modi government of using central agencies to target political opponents.

The CBI said it was filing the application to bring on record certain new facts and seek custody of Rajeev, now state principal secretary (IT and electronics), who it claimed had shielded several VIP accused when he headed the probe into the scam.

Its application alleges that Saradha had “funded Bengal Assembly elections 2011 to the tune of crores of rupees” and that Trinamul leader turned BJP politician Mukul Roy was one of the “key players” in the transaction.

“It is submitted that the examination of Kunal Kumar Ghosh by ED during October 2013 further reveals that Sudipta Sen and K.D. Singh, promoter of Alchemist group, had funded Bengal Assembly elections 2011 to the tune of crores of rupees,” it says.

“Kunal Ghosh had further stated that (former Bengal armed police DGP) Rajat Majumdar and Mukul Roy were the key players in this election funded by Saradha group ponzi companies.”
The application repeats the allegations that the accused companies were made to buy Mamata’s paintings at exorbitant prices as a way of boosting Trinamul’s coffers and donate to Puja committees whom the party wanted to keep happy.

It says that Saradha employee Safiqur Rehman had during his examination by the ED in September-October 2013 revealed that Ghosh used to direct Sen to pay money to various Durga Puja committees.

“It is submitted that as per the said statement when the chief minister, West Bengal, contested for MLA seat, Sudipta Sen was forced to sponsor all the Pujas of Bhawanipur,” the application says.

It adds that Jago Bangla, a Trinamul mouthpiece, “sold a number of paintings, purportedly drawn by the hon’ble chief minister of West Bengal to promoters of ponzi companies during the year 2011-2013”.

“It has come on record that not only M/s Saradha paid funds to the said mouthpiece but other ponzi companies like M/s Rose Valley Group, M/s Tower Group, M/s Pailan Group, Ms Angel Agro Group have also bought paintings worth lakh of rupees steered by certain persons linked to the highest state authorities,” it adds.

“The following facts clearly show a larger conspiracy between highly placed state authorities and the companies under investigation which requires full and through investigation by the CBI which is being deliberately scuttled by the concrete efforts of the state authorities.

“Further investigation has revealed that (Rajeev) Kumar was acting with a deliberate motive by concealing evidence and facts emerged during the course of investigation by the SIT (special investigation team) to shield influential persons associated with the larger conspiracy involved in the scam.

“Further investigation has also revealed that evidence, which connected the ruling dispensation of Bengal at that point of time financially was concealed by Bidhannagar police under the stewardship of Kumar.”

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