Friday, December 12, 2014

Saradha Scam: CBI arrests WB Transport Minister Madan Mitra. Bankrupt TMC backs Madan.

Saradha chit fund scam: CBI arrests West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra, Trinamool cries foul.

West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra arrives
at the CBI's office in Kolkata hours before his arrest.
(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT photo)
Madhuparna Das | Express News Service| Kolkata | December 12, 2014:: The shadow thrown by the Saradha scandal is slowly creeping up the hierarchy of the Trinamool Congress. After two Rajya Sabha MPs, the CBI Friday arrested Madan Mitra, one of most powerful ministers in Mamata Banerjee’s Cabinet, for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore chit fund scam.

Mitra, the State Transport and Sports Minister, submitted his resignation to Banerjee before reaching the CBI office where he was grilled for five hours before being arrested. He is the first Minister in the state to be arrested in the case after TMC MPs Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose. The Chief Minister, later, called the arrest “the worst conspiracy the BJP government could do in Bengal.”

According to CBI sources, what led to Mitra’s arrest was crucial evidence including CCTV footage, key statements, and detailed documents of certain financial transactions.

The news of Mitra’s arrest was officially announced at 4.20 pm, following which Banerjee and her senior ministers came out in his defence. Banerjee and State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee claimed that the “decision to arrest Mitra was taken when the BJP national president (Amit Shah) came to the city on November 30.”

However, the buzz about the possible arrest of Mitra had begun on November 15 when he received the first summons from the agency.

The Minister was then admitted to a private hospital though the doctors there failed to provide a “reasonable explanation for his illness” to CBI.

Mitra was then shifted to the state-run SSKM Hospital, where a medical board — again — failed to submit a medical report to CBI “that could justify Mitra’s illness”. Following his discharge from SSKM, Mitra on November 27 sought a week’s time from CBI.

Contrary to Mitra’s claims, the CBI had recovered CCTV footage showing Mitra entering Saradha CMD Sudipta Sen’s office. Sources said that the agency had also recorded statements of Sen, Saradha executive director Debjani Mukherjee and other employees that revealed Mitra’s links to the Saradha establishment.

According to the sources, Mitra initially “refused to cooperate” but broke down after investigators informed him of the arrest.

CBI official Kanchan Prasad later issued a statement confirming Mitra’s arrest “on prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy, cheating, and misappropriation as well as deriving undue financial benefits from the Saradha Group”. The statement also confirmed the arrests of “Naresh Balodia, Legal Advisor to Sudipto Sen and Saradha Group on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and diversion of funds in the same case.”

According to a close aide of Mitra, the Minister had “submitted his resignation to the Chief Minister, but madam did not accept it.”

Speaking to reporters later, Banerjee said, “We also have several documents against many persons. But we are gentle and decent. Should we arrest a Central leader when he comes to our state? We can also put several charges. I am challenging the Central government to arrest me if they can. Madan is innocent. It is a political conspiracy.”

Daring the CBI to arrest her, Banerjee said, “They have sent some goonda-like officers here. People can see how these officers look. And they are now doing ‘goondagiri’ here. How can they arrest a patient who was called as a witness? The BJP government has broken the federal and democratic structure of the country.”

Madan Mitra was taken away from CBI office at CGO complex to police station - ABP Ananda Video. 

Saradha scam: Mamata backs arrested minister Madan Mitra, dares Modi to arrest her.

HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times | Kolkata |  December 12, 2014 :: Embarrassment mounted for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress after the CBI arrested state transport and sports minister Madan Mitra in connection with the Saradha scam on Friday. 
He is the first minister of Bengal to be arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in any case, and the fourth Trinamool leader to be held by the probe agency in the chit fund scam.

Accusing the Centre of adopting bullying tactics after Mitra’s arrest, Banerjee lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and dared them to arrest her.

“CBI may take Madan to SSKM Hospital. I will go to meet him. Let me see whether Amit Shah’s goondas and Narendra Modi’s police can arrest me,” she said.

“It (the arrest) is unfortunate, shameful and deserves to be condemned. It’s sheer political vendetta. Can the CBI and the Centre go out of their jurisdiction and act like this?” she added.

The Saradha chit fund scam trail is hounding Banerjee’s government unlike any other challenge she has encountered during her stint in power so far and Mitra’s arrest triggered fresh calls from opposition leaders for her resignation.

Opposition parties have repeatedly accused the CM of trying to shield some of the beneficiaries of the company’s slush funds.

The Saradha scam was caused by the collapse of the investment operation of the Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies, which ran many unlicensed financial schemes in eastern India.

Under the scam hundreds of thousands of small investors lost Rs. 2,459 crore, according to an official estimate. There are unofficial estimates that peg the figure higher. 

The CBI arrested Mitra around 4 pm after questioning him for about three hours during which he denied taking any money from Saradha, said an official privy to the development.

According to the official, who did not want to be named, Mitra stood his ground despite CBI officers confronting him with evidence.

“In the Saradha chit fund scam, RC 4 S/14, case relating to Saradha Realty, CBI has arrested Madan Mitra, a cabinet minister in the government of West Bengal on prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation as well as deriving undue financial benefits from Saradha group,” said a CBI statement.

“CBI has also arrested Naresh Balodia, legal advisor to Sudipta Sen (Saradha Group chairperson) on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and diversion of funds in the same case,” the statement added.

Within an hour of the arrest, the Trinamool tore into Shah, who had launched a scathing attack on the Bengal CM last month, laying the foundation for the 2016 assembly elections in the state.

“The arrest of our cabinet colleague seems to be an act of vendetta. It appears CBI is controlled not only by BJP but also by Amit Shah. We strongly condemn this action. Neither the governor, nor the assembly speaker was informed before the arrest,” said Subrata Mukherjee, state panchayat minister.

The Supreme Court had in May ordered a CBI probe into the chit fund scams in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam under which various companies, including Saradha, allegedly duped investors of around Rs. 10,000 crore.

Two Rajya Sabha MPs (Kunal Ghosh, Srinjoy Bose) and a vice-president (Rajat Majumdar) of the Trinamool are already behind the bars in connection with the Saradha case.

The CM’s stated position is none from her party took any money from Saradha. She also points to the group’s operations having started during the Left rule, which she ended.

The group folded up in April last year, leaving its investors, largely from rural areas with little access to formal banking facilities, in the lurch.

The opposition mounted pressure on the CM after Mitra’s arrest.

“Madan Mitra’s arrest shows that Trinamool leaders are neck deep in Saradha scam, and the dots are leading to Mamata Banerjee’s doorstep. It’s time for her to resign taking moral responsibility,” said Sidharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary.

State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury, too, demanded that the CM step down.

Courtesy: Indian Express | ABP Ananda | Hindustan Times. 

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