Saradha Group chairperson Sudipta Sen was sentenced to three years in jail by a court in Kolkata on Friday after he confessed to flouting provident fund guidelines.
Sen, who presided over a ponzi scheme empire that collapsed in April last year, admitted that various arms of the Saradha Group did not deposit money deducted from employees' salary to their provident fund accounts.
This was the first sentence handed over to Sen, who faces a string of complaints in connection with the ponzi scheme scam estimated to be worth around Rs. 20,000 crore. Around 1.7 million Saradha investors were duped. Many investors as well as some company agents committed suicide.
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Sen was found guilty under two sections – 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) — of IPC. Both sections carry a sentence of three years each and they would run concurrently. A penalty of Rs. 10,000 was also slapped on Sen.
A few days ago, Sen told the police that he wanted to admit his guilt in the provident fund case, which was opened last year after a former employee of the Saradha Group filed a complaint with the police against him.
The complaint also named three others – Trinamool Congress' Rajya Sabha parliamentarian Kunal Ghosh, Saradha executive director Debjani Mukherjee and another company official Somnath Dutta.
Ghosh, who took on chief minister Mamata Banerjee and a host of party leaders for turning a blind eye to Saradha's wrongdoings, has been indefinitely suspended by the Trinamool Congress. He is now behind bars.
Saradha's employees have alleged that even though due amount was deducted from their salary in order to be deposited in provident fund, it was rarely done.
With headquarters in Kolkata, Sen used to head the Saradha Group that forayed into ponzi schemes, real estate, tourism, media and fast moving consumer goods.
The scam also kicked up a political storm in West Bengal. The opposition criticised chief minister Banerjee and some senior leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress for their alleged ties with several ponzi scheme companies, including Saradha.
Saradha's media arms (newspapers and TV news channels), launched a year before the 2011 assembly elections in Bengal (in which the Trinamool Congress ousted the Left), were all praise for Banerjee and her party during their three-year existence.
Banerjee, however, has denied the allegations of having a cordial relationship with ponzi scheme firms. Her stated position is all such companies entered the market during the Left rule.
Police escort arrested chairman of Saradha group, Sudipta Sen (R top), from a police van to the court in Kolkata. AFP photo