Assam minister denies Saradha chief's allegations



Guwahati: Assam Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday denied the allegations Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen made against him in a letter to the CBI and said he planned to send him a legal notice.

Sen, now under arrest, in his letter to the CBI, had accused Sarma of "cheating" him and said that he had been defrauded of not less than Rs 3 crore by the minister, whose office executives had signed vouchers for the payments.

"I have gone through the copy of Sen's letter to the CBI, where he had not only said that I have 'cheated' him, but my office executives had accepted money from the company after signing 'vouchers'. First of all, I do not have any office executive working under me; and I have only personal secretaries (PS). I have asked all of them whether they have signed any document and taken money from Saradha, and all of them have said no," Sarma said.

"I have not authorised anyone to sign on my behalf. If somebody had signed on my behalf and taken money, I must know the identity of those persons," the minister said.

"I am planning to send a legal notice to Sen, seeking from him the names of those persons who had taken money from the company by signing vouchers," the minister said.

Sarma also welcomed the Assam government decision to go in for a CBI probe into the issue of swindling of public money by Saradha Group companies.

The minister admitted that he inaugurated a biscuit factory of the Saradha Group in Assam's Dhubri district last year, and asked if that would be a crime.

"Saradha Group invested in the biscuit factory and I appreciated the move for the sake of development of the state and went there to inaugurate the factory. There are so many people who inaugurate factories and power projects. How would I know that the same company would do this kind of thing some years later?" he asked.

The minister tweeted: "A motivated allegation will not demoralise me at all. My conscience is clear."

On Thursday, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that influential persons in the government could be involved in the fraud committed by deposit-collecting companies in the state.

"Such a business could not have flourished without the connivance of some government official or someone in a position of power," the chief minister said.

On Thursday, an RTI activist in Assam and Team Anna member Akhil Gogoi took out a rally against the Saradha Group, and hundreds of people, including agents, depositors and employees of deposit collecting companies, joined the rally.

A memorandum was submitted to the government for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, demanding stern action against these fraudulent companies.

The rallyists also demanded the arrest of Sarma and confiscation of his properties, in view of his alleged role in the scam.

IANS