Saturday, April 27, 2013


By M H Ahssan & Richa Rai / Kolkata

‘Son of holy mother Sarada’, Sudipta Sen gives his interrogators a tough time as he spouts ideology about helping the poor.

Police detectives had a tough time interrogating Saradha Group chairman Sudipta Sen, who proved to be a hard nut to crack. In the face of sustained grilling, the scamster kept spouting his ideologies throughout on Friday.

Sen was interrogated by a number of detectives of Bidhannagar police led by deputy commissioner Arnab Ghosh. The grilling started at 10.30 am on Friday and continued till late at night in separate sessions.

Sen and his associates Debjani Mukherjee and Arvind Singh Chauhan, who were arrested along with him in Jammu and Kashmir, were quizzed by several police officers separately in three different rooms of the New Town police station.

Police sources said Sen reportedly told the investigators that he considered himself as the only son of holy mother Sarada Devi, wife of Ramakrishna Paramhansa and claimed to be inspired by her ideals.

In order to mislead the investigation, Sen said he started his company to help the poor and never wanted to cheat them, police sources said. But gradually under sustained interrogation, Saradha chief Sudipta Sen revealed that his company used to give hefty bribes to senior police officers, income tax and SEBI officials every month to avoid tax related implications.

Sources said the Saradha Group used to give ` 70 lakh to SEBI and ` 40 lakh to Assam Police every month.

Many retired IPS officers were also in the company’s pay rolls. The sources said the total amount paid as bribe every month ran into more than a crore.

The trio was quizzed on cases related to economic offences, the involvement of high- profile politician, realty fraud and money market controversies among others.

Sen was arrested on Tuesday from Sonmarg in J&K along with his associates in connection with the chit fund scam that left lakhs of depositors staring at the prospect of losing their hard- earned money.

On Monday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the setting up of a high- level inquiry commission and a Special Investigation Team to probe into the collapse of the Saradha Group.

She said ` 500 crore would be demanded from the Centre to pay back defrauded investors of Saradha Group as SEBI and RBI failed in their duty to check such companies.

The trio was brought back to Kolkata on a four- day transit remand on Wednesday night and produced in Bidhannagar court. They were remanded in 14- day police custody. Debjani’s younger sister Arpita was also called to the New Town police station for interrogation by the Bidhannagar police commissionerate in connection with the case.

Meanwhile, employees of the Saradha Group owned 24- hour TV news channel, Channel 10, filed a complaint against Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP and Saradha Group media cell chief executive officer ( CEO) Kunal Ghosh and chairman Sudipta for not paying salaries and deposit contributions to the provident fund. The complaint was filed with the the Park Street police station.

Ghosh told a TV channel that all the charges against him were “ baseless” and a “ deep- rooted conspiracy” had been hatched against him as he was never responsible for disbursing the salary.

Many more bogus projects were underway
TheSudipta Sen- led chit fund firm Saradha Group, which thrived on the small savings of thousands of depositors in West Bengal, made several false claims about its future ventures gain people’s confidence and amass more money.

The group, which expanded its operations in realty, housing, hotel and resort, shopping malls, cement unit, educational enterprises, automobiles, export media, travel and much more within a short span of time, had plans” to set up a state- of- theart steel plant and a biogas unit Gokulnagar in west Tripura and venture into the textile export business as well.

INN investigation has revealed that the chit fund group also made false announcements to set up shopping malls at Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas, Contai in east Midnapore, Bishnupur near Joka in South 24 Parganas, luxury apartments in almost every West Bengal district and a five- star hotel, without mentioning any particular location and other details.

The company brochure, a copy of which is with INN, also mentioned many upcoming projects such as Saradha Matiali Forest Resort, a luxury hotel and Lataguri Forest Resort near Gorumara National Park.

“These false corporate announcements add value to the company in terms of building a makeshift business image, but they never translate to reality. It also helps build public confidence to invest in their projects, considering they are really big and would never wind up operations,” a former president of an apex chamber said.

Though no one knows the exact figure, sources said ` 20,000 crore could be at risk and the figure could only go up.

“A state- of- the- art steel plant is in the pipeline and will be instrumental in creating even more jobs. We are in the process of building a biogas plant in Gokulnagar, Lembootali, in west Tripura. Organic fertilisers would be manufactured here using cow dung as raw material,” the Saradha Group corporate brochure said.

Company insiders said Sen had once claimed in a board meeting that he would set up as many as 22 cement plants across the country.

Printed on glossy paper, the hardbound brochure reads: “Saradha Realty India Ltd is a professionally managed company established in 2008 under the Company’s Act”. It also carries a number of photos and names of senior management officials of Saradha Group with Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh on the top of the list. But interestingly, it does not carry any photo of Sudipta Sen and only a few words from him.

Women-friendly Boss
Saradha Group’s chairman-cum- managing director ( CMD) Sudipta Sen was a popular boss, especially with his female employees.

Sen kept himself surrounded by a bevy of women employees.

Insiders say women formed 75 per cent of the staff strength at his Midland Park corporate office in Kolkata’s Salt Lake Sector- V. In fact, the CMD’s desk was a 40- member all- women team, which handled all his important notes and appointments.

The three most powerful women at the CMD’s desk were Maniratna Roy, Poulami Ghosh, and Rajashree Bhattacharya.

The trio always shadowed Sen everywhere he went, even outside Kolkata.

The other important members of his core team were Reshmi Lahiri, Anuttama Basu, Payel Dutta, Chandrani Roy and Moumita Das. Many of these women had humble beginnings but climbed the success ladder fast, thanks to the blessings of the big boss.

For instance, Maniratna joined as a proofreader and soon became a group executive member. Similarly, Reshmi joined as a receptionist and went on to head the group’s transport unit based in Orissa.

“We never though Sir ( Sudipta Sen) would leave all of us in such trouble,” a female employee said on condition of anonymity. She added that Debjani Mukherjee, who was arrested along with Sen from Jammu and Kashmir, was an “ all-time companion” of Sen.

“Not only in the corporate head office but in every branch office, they (Sudipta and Debjani) used to sit side by side.

They always travelled together.

Though the rooms used to be booked separately, we all knew they worked together till late hours in any one room,” a former employee of the group said.

Ironically, Sen, who now finds himself in the midst of media frenzy, religiously shunned media attention to the point that all members of the CMD’s desk were under strict instructions not to photograph him during any event. He often preferred not to attend any promotional event of his company.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had alleged that Sen had two wives in Kolkata. It is said both his families used to stay in Salt Lake.

Later, Sen shifted one of his families to a plot in FD block in Salt Lake.

Sources said his elder son Subhojit Sen ( alias Raja) led a lavish life. He used to be surrounded by women, like his father, and drove imported luxury cars.

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