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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

TMC MP Nusrat claims innocence in financial fraud case, ends up making matters worse for her?

I wouldn’t have been standing before you today if I was involved in corruption, says Trinamul MP; but BJP leader Panda questions both her stated loan amount and her attempt to shrug off responsibility by claiming distance from the firm in question

Sougata Mukhopadhyay Calcutta Published 02.08.23, 08:53 PM
Trinamul Congress (TMC) MP Nusrat Jahan interacts with the media, in Calcutta.

Trinamul Congress (TMC) MP Nusrat Jahan interacts with the media, in Calcutta. PTI picture

It took less than 15 minutes for the smiling demeanor of actor-turned-politician Nusrat Jahan Ruhi to turn to one of annoyance and storm out of what was supposed to be an interaction with a room full of journalists.

The Trinamul Congress MP from Basirhat, who is facing the heat for her links with a company that has allegedly siphoned off money invested by unsuspecting property buyers, had herself called a “press conference” on Wednesday afternoon to clear the air on what she felt were “half-baked drawing room stories” filling up news television spaces to satiate their “hunger for TRPs”.

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The actor turned up in a bright yellow satin kameez and minimal make up, only to lose her cool even before the first question was properly asked following her public submission in self defence. Interestingly, Jahan came to the press meet all by herself and wasn’t accompanied by either her lawyers or friends.

At one point during the interaction she seemed to lose her cool when pressed for "proof" that she had indeed cleared a loan she had taken from the company, of which she was a director, to buy a property for herself allegedly worth nearly Rs 2 crore.

“Have I asked for your bank statements? You cannot ask for mine. If you want to see them you will have to access them from court because that’s where they have been submitted,” she snapped.

Nusrat has been hogging headlines for the last 48 hours after BJP leader Shankudeb Panda filed a complaint before the Enforcement Directorate on behalf of victims alleging she is complicit in a near Rs 24 crore fraud committed by 7 Sense Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, a real estate company, which took advances of Rs 5.55 lakhs each from 429 prospective property buyers promising them three-bedroom apartments in Rajarhat and then backed off without delivering on its promise and swindling the money.

It was also alleged that Jahan used portions of the swindled money to buy a property of her own in the tony neighbourhood of Palm Avenue in south Calcutta in 2014-15, around the same time deposits were made by members of the residential association.

The alleged victims, this website spoke to, confirmed that while the flats were supposed to be delivered by 2017, not a single brick had been laid on the proposed site so far. “In fact, the company had initially purchased some plots in that area purportedly for construction of the property and later sold them off,” a depositor said.

The ED complaint, filed over and above an ongoing legal tussle between the company and the alleged victims, was based on what Panda called “a financial crime and a fit case of money siphoning” by Jahan as part of her “long-term plan to cheat the buyers”.

Jahan, in her hurriedly concluded appearance, made two claims in support of her “non-involvement” in the imbroglio. First, she said she resigned as director of the company on March 1, 2017 and has since had no links with its policies and actions. She also stated that she holds no stakes in the company.

Secondly, Jahan claimed, she took a loan of Rs 1,16,30,285 from the company to purchase her property and that she had repaid the sum along with interest, an amount of Rs 1,40,71,995, on May 6, 2017. “I did not have my papers in order at the time to approach a bank for the loan. So I took it from the company and duly repaid it,” she said, waving what she claimed were documents in support of her statements but refused to share them in public domain.

She refused to field questions on why she took advances from a company which eventually turned out to be a non-starter.

Both of Jahan’s claims were strongly rebutted by Panda who questioned both her stated loan amount as well as her attempt to shrug off responsibility by claiming distance from the firm under scanner.

“I am not here to give clarifications,” Jahan told reporters, “Because I know I haven’t done anything wrong. I wouldn’t have been standing before you today if I was involved in corruption.”

“Please do not make this a political matter, because it’s not,” she appealed in the backdrop of the Trinamul already distancing itself from the debate and stating this was a matter which would be defended by the actor in her personal capacity.

Panda’s retort, however, had all ingredients to turn this into a political issue. “There’s a pending court case against her. She has already ignored two summonses. A police case at the Gariahat PS remains pending. We have inputs that investigators have submitted a report to the Lalbazar top brass on her involvement in the crime because it was difficult for them to ignore the facts of the case. There is a previous case of her being an accomplice to a criminal as well. Was Mamata Banerjee not aware of these? What steps did the Trinamul, which brags of zero tolerance against corruption, take against her?” Panda questioned.

Flanked by a section of senior citizens who were allegedly defrauded, the BJP leader picked on Jahan’s statements. “She has acknowledged today that she was one of the company directors when the money was taken and the agreements signed. It doesn’t matter if she resigned later. She was very much part of the company management when the transactions took place and for that she must be investigated,” Panda declared while disclosing that Jahan’s property was purchased between July 2014 and November 2015 at a price of over Rs 1.98 crore.

“She says she took a loan from the company of which she herself was a director instead of approaching a bank or a financial institution. That itself is a suspicious move. The ED must also probe whether the company had ROC’s (Registrar of Companies) leave to grant such loans in the first place,” he maintained.

Drawing on the fact that seven of the investors in the project are already dead, Panda referred to a “sinister plot” by Jahan and her accomplices in the company to avoid returning the money “by waiting on them to die”. He questioned: “Will these people, who are already in the fag end of their lives, get justice in their lifetime?”

Seems Nusrat Jahan, in her bid to come clean in a murky affair, has actually ended up stirring a hornet’s nest.

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