A former Assam director general of police, who was under the CBI scanner in connection with the Saradha scam, allegedly committed suicide at his residence on Wednesday.
Shankar Barua, 63, shot himself in the head minutes after being discharged from a local hospital where he was admitted for four days with an undisclosed ailment, said a police officer who did not wish to be identified.
Barua was taken ill after Sadananda Gogoi, an Assamese singer and filmmaker, was arrested by the CBI on September 12 in Kolkata for his alleged involvement in the scam.
“Doctors declared him dead. An investigation is on,” said AP Tiwari, senior superintendent of police in Guwahati. Following a post-mortem examination the body was cremated last evening.
The Saradha scam was caused by the collapse of an investment operation from the Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies that was running many unlicensed financial schemes in eastern India.
The group folded up in April last year, resulting in the loss of hundreds of crores to thousands of investors — largely from rural areas with little access to formal banking facilities.
Saradha chief Sudipta Sen suggested in a letter to the CBI last year that Barua, the then DGP of Assam police, was paid protection money through Gogoi to run the consortium’s business in the state, sources said.
The CBI raided several locations in the city on August 28, including Barua’s house, and took him to a State Bank of India branch to verify some documents.
A CBI spokesperson, however, said the agency had not launched a formal investigation against Barua. “Reports in certain sections of the media that the ex-DGP, Assam was examined by the CBI are not correct. He had not been summoned as yet,” the official said.
Barua, a 1974-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was the director general of Assam police from July 28, 2009 to December 31, 2012. He is survived by his wife, two sons and mother.
“He was an upright and efficient police officer who discharged his duties conscientiously and assiduously,” said Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
The Saradha scam has turned into a major embarrassment for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who stands accused of trying to shield some of the beneficiaries of Saradha’s slush funds. A Rajya Sabha MP from her Trinamool Congress party is now in judicial custody and several other leaders are also being investigated in the fraud.
The probe also spread to neighbouring Assam and Odisha, where Saradha ran its Ponzi scheme and had either invested or had planned to invest heavily in a range of business, including the media.