The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the investigation arm of the Union ministry of corporate affairs, has decided to open full-fledged offices in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar in the wake of the bursting of the Saradha Group bubble, a financial scam involving crores and crores of rupees.
Currently, the SFIO has fullfledged offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai.
According to ministry sources, the eastern and the north-eastern regions came under SFIO focus especially as the Saradha bubble burst.
“It is not just the case of the Saradha Group. A number of other ponzi companies are operating while focusing on these two regions especially West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. And every day we are hearing of new names operating in this field of chit funds under the garb of multi-level marketing or collective investment scheme companies. So full-fledged offices in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar have become absolutely necessary to keep a closer watch on such companies,” a senior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
In fact, as per records of the Union ministry of corporate affairs, currently 87 companies are under its scanner for indulging in ponzi or multilevel marketing companies, of which 73 are based in West Bengal. Among the rest, five each are Tamil Nadu and Delhi based, two are Rajasthan-based and one each are f ro m Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
Among the 73 companies from West Bengal under the ministry scanner, as many as 20 are Rose Valley Group companies and nine are Saradha Group companies.
Apart from these two groups some other groups from Bengal under scanner include Tower Group, Chakra Group, ICore, Prayag Group, Ramel Group and URO Group.
Incidentally, all these groups either had or still have major exposure in the media business.
“Again, although these 73 companies have registered or corporate offices in West Bengal, they are operating in a major way in states like Odisha and Assam. Once these two offices in Kolkata and Bhubhaneswar are set up, it would be easier for our officials to keep a tab on these companies operating in eastern and north-eastern India,” the ministry official said.
The development gains significance especially after the Union corporate affairs minister, Sachin Pilot, said last week that SFIO would submit its probe report on ponzi schemes run by 54 entities, including the Saradha Group, in another two to three months.
A special task force of SFIO is conducting the probe.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has already ordered strict action against groups like Saradha and Rose Valley for running unauthorised investment schemes.