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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Saradha chief used fake mobike plant to dupe investors

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Chinsurah (West Bengal), April 23, 2013
First Published: 11:10 IST(23/4/2013) | Last Updated: 13:58 IST(25/4/2013)

In the blockbuster film, Munnabhai-MBBS, the lovable character with the same name, played by Sanjay Dutt, and his associates created a fake hospital filled with patients and doctors in a matter of a few hours to prove that he had, indeed, become a doctor.

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In Chinsurah, Saradha owner Sudipto Sen faked a full motorcycle factory over 7.7 acres with 150 employees in real life for two years to delude thousands of depositors into believing that he had a running factory and they could trust him with their money.

Inside this closed motorcycle factory in Hooghly, workers routinely faked activity to dupe depositors who were brought here in busloads. They returned convinced.

For two years since January 2011, employees at the Saradha group-owned Global Automobiles were forced to pose in front of the conveyor belt to give the impression that the plant was operating in full swing.

They pretended to work whenever truckloads and busloads of prospective depositors of Saradha Realty visited the plant for a first-hand check before investing.

Just before the depositors reached the factory, the workers would get dressed in their blue uniforms, rush to the shed where the assembling of motorbikes used to be done and pose in front of the conveyor belt as if they were really assembling the twowheelers.

They also used to turn on the fountains inside the campus. The prospective investors had no way of doubting that the plant had actually stopped production in January 2011.

"They showed the investors that the plant was fully functioning, had good prospects and asked people to invest in it. Most of the visitors used to believe what they saw," Anirban Poddar, a mechanic at the plant, told HT.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/4/25_04_pg12a.jpg

On Monday, aggrieved employees at the plant repeated the whole episode before this correspondent to show how their employers used them to cheat people, who came from places as distant as Siliguri, Bankura, Malda, East and West Midnapore and the South 24-Parganas.

They were also treated to a free lunch at the canteen meant for the employees.

The 150 employees at the plant who hold professional degrees to work at an automobile plant were being paid their monthly salaries (between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000 per month) for these 24 months only to pose before prospective depositors at the chit fund run by their employer, Sudipta Sen, Bengal’s most wanted man for the past one week.

"When we protested, the management told us that, since we were getting our salaries, we should keep shut," Lakhindar Ram, another employee, said.

"We also had hopes that the factory would resume production if it got the investment," he added.

Originally owned by Santanu Ghosh, a former owner of Kolkata TV, Global Automobiles used to produce cheap motorbikes and scooters.

The plant was inaugurated in 2007 by former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and had launched three motorbike brands, a scooter and a bicycle.

"They used to buy the parts from various other companies and assemble those at this plant. Initially, we used to produce 150 vehicles a day but, by early 2010, the plant was producing 250 vehicles a day. They were being sold in such countries as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nigeria," said another mechanic, Sukanta Sur Roy.

In October 2010, Ghosh, who failed to run either Kolkata TV or his computer hardware business, decided to get rid of the motorcycle factory, too. He handed over the factory’s control to Sudipta Sen. While employees claimed that Ghosh still had a stake in this plant, the man himself denied this.

"I have no idea about this. I sold out the entire property in April 2010," Ghosh claimed.

All the five management grade employees at the plant, including CEO Indrajit Chanda, manager (admin) Arya Bhattacharya and factory manager Shantanu Ghatak, vanished since end of March. The 10 security guards left on April 2.

The employees, who are not getting their salaries since January, are protecting the plant since then. The tragedy staring them in the face was no fake though.


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