Police raced with Enforcement Directorate officials to gain access to a bank locker of Saradha chief Sudipta Sen’s wife Piyali that supposedly contained revealing documents, reinforcing suggestions that the state government was trying to hide something from the central law enforcement agency.
After Piyali, who was arrested last week, told ED officers about the locker held jointly by Sen and her in the Salt lake Branch of the United Bank of India, the ED approached the bank but was denied access.
Bidhannagar Police claimed they had blocked access as it wanted to ensure that no one tampered with the locker contents. But at around 11 pm on Tuesday, they themselves broke open the locker and emptied it.
The multi-crore Saradha ponzi scam has emerged as a major poll issue in West Bengal with major political parties like the Congress, BJP and CPI(M) training their guns against the ruling Trinamool Congress.
ED sleuths now feel that even if they get hold of the documents (and other materials) in the locker, these may not be the ones they were hoping to find. "Had we been able to procure the documents in time, we could have revealed the nexus of the tainted group with sections of existing bureaucratic, police and political administration of West Bengal," said an ED official.
During a hurriedly arranged press conference on Wednesday evening, Bidhannagar Police detective chief Arnab Ghosh could not explain the move. The locker had been sealed by the police on April 30, 2013, but nothing had been done about it.
ED officials have alleged foul play. "We were astonished how they came to know that we were going to open the locker. We maintained full secrecy about the locker. We suspect that our phone was tapped as we briefed our Delhi headquarters about the development of the investigation time to time," said an ED officer who did not want to be named.
Ghosh, however, tried to dispel any impression of malafide intent. "We videographed the process and also had an official from another bank witness the procedure," he said.