Enforcement Directorate (ED) sources say the scam-tainted Saradha Group may have diverted nearly Rs 750 crore to Bangladesh and West Asia with the help of the controversial political outfit Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami.
This is the second time that the consortium’s overseas money trail has come under the ED’s scanner. In April, the directorate and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) unearthed clues pointing to Saradha’s links with a UAE-based investment venture.
Sources say Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen told the ED that a part of the money routed to Bangladesh was invested in the real estate sector there, while the rest was pushed to some West Asian countries. In both cases, the group took the help of Jamaat leaders by paying hefty commissions.
The Jamaat, the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh, was last year declared unfit to contest elections by the country’s Supreme Court, which also termed its registration illegal.
“A major portion of the funds was transported as cash, concealed in plastic linings of jute bags, through ambulances which had inscriptions on them saying they had been donated to the West Bengal government by Saradha media houses. On reaching Bangladesh the money was exchanged for local currency, a portion of which was retained by Jamaat linkmen as commission. Some of the money was then converted into currencies of a few West Asian countries to be transported there,” said an ED official.
The directorate seems to have contacted its Bangladeshi counterparts since the media in Dhaka reported that investigative agencies there, apparently, have begun probing the Saradha-Jamaat nexus.
According to ED sources, Sen confessed that his connection with Jamaat was established through a Rajya Sabha member who has already been questioned by the directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Soon after the Trinamool Congress came to power in West Bengal during May 2011, media houses owned by the Saradha Group donated a number of ambulances to the state government for distribution in the Maoist-hit Jangalmahal area.