What West Bengal’s Chit Fund Scam is All About

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The depositors, mostly poor people in villages and small towns, had put their hard-earned money with the company’s chit funds lured by the promise of high interest rates.

KOLKATA: The Saradha Group chit fund scam that left scores bereft of their savings, has Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress in a tizzy with the chief minister putting the onus on the Left and some even trying to cover up the mess.

saradha group logoSudipto Sen, the promoter of the chit fund funded by the Saradha Group, was arrested from Sonmarg in Jammu and Kashmir with two of his associates, police said.

“Based on information provided by the West Bengal Police, three people were detained by us from the Sonamarg tourist resort in Ganderbal district today (Tuesday, 23 April 2013),” a senior Jammu and Kashmir Police officer told IANS.

Today, things got messier with reports of a Saradha Group agent trying to commit suicide as she was under pressure to pay investors back.

An IBN-Live report says that a agent of the firm, Tapasi Singha, tried to kill herself by consuming sleeping pills as she had a liability of Rs 5,30,000.

There also have been reports of suicide bid by investors who lost all their money after the firm had gone bust.

A fifty-year-old woman who had deposited money with the firm, set herself ablaze after she heard that the firm was fraudulent, while a man poisoned himself after the news.

The Saradha Group, which collected hundreds of crores of rupees from people in villages and small towns by promising huge returns, has shut shop after a series of allegations that it was defaulting on payment.

Lakhs of depositors vented their anger across the state against the chit-fund fund company Saradha Group, which is virtually on the verge of collapse. There were incidents of clashes between the agents and the depositors who demanded their money back.

The depositors, mostly poor people in villages and small towns, had put their hard-earned money with the company’s chit funds lured by the promise of high interest rates.

Saradha Group is one of the largest chit fund companies in eastern India. It has also diversified into construction, realty, tourism, hospitality, agri-businesses and media.

Crisis in the group was brewing since January, which forced it to recently wind up at least 10 media organisations – newspapers and television channels – that it had launched or acquired since 2010. Over 1,000 journalists and non-journalists have been rendered jobless.

Who owns Saradha Group?

In about seven years, a small-time builder in the southern fringe of Kolkata became Bengal’s ponzie king with a Rs 20,000-crore kitty – that’s the figure being quoted unofficially – to play around with politics, media, construction and lakhs of lives.

The name is Sudipto Sen, or that’s what he called himself before staging a vanishing act. Sources said although he suddenly burst onto the scene, especially after the exit of the 34-year-old Left Front government in West Bengal in 2011, nobody is sure who Sen actually is. The chairman of the Saradha group used such a thick smokescreen to hide himself that even after he started his media empire, most of his employees never got to see the big man. His strict instruction was never to put his picture in public.

Why? People in the know believe that he is the son of Bhudeb Sen, owner of another chit fund Sanchayani Savings and Investment Company, which defaulted on payments in the early 1990s.

Bhudeb Sen was promptly packed off to jail. But, interestingly, his son Sudeb disappeared and, according to rumours, underwent a series of plastic surgeries.

Entered Sudipto Sen. He began with a small office in Behala in the southern fringes of Kolkata and started selling plots in and around Pailan, farther south.

But his real success came after 2006-07 when Saradha was born. During the next seven years, he mopped up a huge amount of deposits that may have run up to more than Rs. 20,000 crore.

Mamata orders probe

A Public Interest Litigation was filed in Calcutta High Court on Monday, 22 April 2013, seeking an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Saradha Group chit fund scam and the arrest of Trinamool Congress MPs involved in it.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has also been criticised for showing support to the group, ordered two inquiries into the matter – one by a retired judge and another by a special investigation team.

“The inquiry commission, to be led by Shyamal Kumar Sen, retired judge of the Allahabad high court, will include a retired IPS officer and individuals from financial and corporate world,” Banerjee said.

But the chief minister, who has been to at least four programmes of Saradha Group, defended herself and her Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh, who was also the CEO of Saradha’s media venture involving a host of newspapers and television channels.

(Source: Yahoo India)

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