The Bengal Ponzi scheme fire has singed Assam with a minister accused of ‘legalising the illegal business’ of arrested Saradha Group head Sudipta Sen from Kashmir.
Amid demand for the minister’s resignation, chief minister Tarun Gogoi has decided to act tough against Ponzi scheme firms and their facilitators. The Saradha Group had in the past four years spread its network of deposit collection centres, set up a biscuit factory in western Assam’s Dhubri town and launched Northeast edition of Bengali daily Sakalbela and English daily Seven Sisters’
Post. Both publications folded up in March this year while all the other establishments of the group have been sealed.
On Wednesday, RTI activist and Team Anna member Akhil Gogoi sought the resignation of Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for allegedly helping Sen to set up his financial empire.
His demand followed reports that Sen had in an 18-page letter to CBI named two Trinamool Congress MPs and an Assam minister who allegedly ‘blackmailed’ him for cash.
Diban Deka, publisher of the now-defunct Sakalbela, had the day before accused Sarma, former director general of police Shankar Baruah and Assam Publication Board secretary Sadananda Gogoi of facilitating the group’s business ventures in Assam. Akhil Gogoi produced a letter that Guwahati-based Pride East Entertainment Private Limited (PEEPL) had purportedly written to Sen on 19 September 2011 seeking Rs. 10 lakh for organising a drawing contest in memory of those killed in the 30 October 2008 serial blasts in Assam.
PEEPL runs three TV channels including NewsLive and its stakeholders include the minister’s wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma.
“We all know who is behind these channels,” Akhil Gogoi said, adding the minister should take responsibility for Saradha Group cheating investors. The chief minister, meanwhile, said the government was “seriously contemplating CBI probe against some companies including Saradha”.
Emerging from a law and order review meeting, he said the cases were being examined. The special investigation team set up for probing deposit collecting firms have so far registered 222 cases against 128 companies that include Saradha Group, Rose Valley, Unipay 2 U, Jeevan Suraksha, Prayag, Abyss Assam Group Co, Basil International Ltd., Alliance Vision Marketing Pvt. Ltd and Daffodils Group of Companies.
So far, 42 persons and 15 companies have been chargesheeted and 303 persons arrested. Rs. 94lakh in cash has been seized and R24crore frozen in 106 bank accounts while plots of land totalling more than 99 bighas including buildings have been identified for attachment.