Saradha scam: TMC begins indefinite protests outside CBI office
With the CBI carrying forward its ongoing probe into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam and arresting state's former DGP and summoning Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose, the ruling party has decided to stage indefinite sit-in outside the agency's office beginning Thursday.
Kolkata: With the CBI carrying forward its ongoing probe into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam and arresting state's former DGP and summoning Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose, the members of ruling party began indefinite protests outside the agency's office on Thursday.
As per reports, the women wing of the ruling Trinamool Congress gathered at the CBI office here in large numbers and shouted slogans against the central probe agency.
While the Opposition trained guns on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in connection with the multi-billion rupee scam, the Trinamool dubbed the CBI as a pawn used to settle political scores by the BJP-led central government.
Bose, owner-editor of the Bengali daily Pratidin, was quizzed by CBI sleuths at its office located within the CGO complex of the satellite township of Salt Lake. Bose was named by alleged scam mastermind and Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen in a letter he purportedly wrote to the CBI in April last year.
Sen, now under arrest with his top aides, said in the letter that after he purchased a television channel, Bose alongwith a senior journalist of the newspaper, Kunal Ghosh, came to him and he had to make arrangement for paying Rs.60 lakh per month to the newspaper for running the channel.
"(The paper) has also given me assurance that on execution of this agreement they will protect my business from the government i.e from the state government and the central government, and I will be able to get a smooth passage and they assured me that they have very close connection with Mamata Banerjee."
Coming out after the marathon interrogation, Bose said the CBI had called him for some clarification regarding his paper's agreement with Saradha.
"We are always ready to cooperate with the law. And we have told them, whenever and whatever papers they seek, we will provide," he said.
The CBI sleuths also questioned Samir Chakraborty, husband of Trinamool leader and Bidhannagar Municipality chairperson Krishna Chakraborty.
A day earlier, the CBI arrested Trinamool leader and former director general (armed police) of West Bengal Rajat Majumdar in connection with the scam. Majumdar, the first Trinamool leader to be arrested by the CBI, complained of chest pain soon after being taken into custody and was rushed to the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital.
Now admitted in the hospital's Intensive Cardiac Care Unit, he is undergoing tests. A court during the day gave deemed judicial custody of Majumdar to the CBI.
A number of MPs and close associates of powerful leaders of the Trinamool have faced grilling from central agencies like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Facing opposition rap over its leaders' alleged involvement in the scam, the Trinamool launched a counter attack.
"The CBI is being used as a political agency. To protest against the misuse of the CBI to settle political scores, we will start an indefinite sit-in demonstration outside the CBI office at the Salt Lake CGO Complecx from 11 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday)," Trinamool Mahila Morcha West Bengal unit president Chandrima Bhattacharya said.
Hours earlier, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee alleged a conspiracy to "defame Mamata Banerjee, whose credibility is beyond question". Trinamool secretary general Partha Chatterjee accused the BJP of using the CBI to derive political gains with an eye to the Sep 13 by-polls in Basirhat South and Chowringhee assembly constituencies.
"The credibility of CBI is under question now," said Chatterjee, who charged a media house with conspiring alongside the BJP. But the opposition seemed unrelenting in attacking Banerjee.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha demanded a white paper from the state government and a statement from Banerjee on the scandal. Sinha, who led a party delegation to Governor K.N. Tripathi, also sought the resignation of ministers whose names have cropped up in course of the investigation into the scam.
State Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned Banerjee's alleged meeting with purported scam mastermind Sudipta Sen in Darjeeling two years back. The Baharampur MP was referring to suspended and arrested Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh's claim that the Trinamool top leadership met Sen in Delo at Kalimpong in March 2012 on the sidelines of an official visit of Banerjee.
Heaping more embarrassment on the Trinamool, Ghosh demanded in a letter to Chatterjee that the party constitute an internal probe panel on the Saradha scam within 72 hours. Unleashing more fire, retired Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly accused Banerjee of efforts to promote newspapers of the Saradha Group.
The Saradha scam came to light in April 2013 after the group downed shutters without repaying lakhs of investors, who had parked their hard earned money in the group's companies, lured by the promise of astronomically high returns. The scandal, said to be the biggest to hit the state, led to a spate of suicides by agents of the Saradha Group and depositors who had lost their life's savings.