The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Rajya Sabha member Srinjoy Bose from the Trinamool Congress on Friday in connection with the Saradha scam, spurring opposition parties to demand West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s resignation.
The 38-year-old MP who is considered a confidant of his party chief, Banerjee, is the second parliamentarian to be arrested on suspicion of stealing funds from the multi-crore Ponzi scheme that collapsed last year.
Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh, suspended from the Trinamool, has been in judicial custody for almost a year and allegedly attempted suicide in jail this month after saying the real architects of the scam were roaming free.
“Srinjoy Bose has been arrested for his prima facie involvement in the Saradha case,” a CBI statement said. Agency officials added the charges against him were criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of funds and deriving undue financial benefits.
The lawmaker was arrested after being questioned for six hours at the CBI office in Kolkata, sources said.
“I have come here to appear as a witness. Why should I be scared or tense?” Bose said while entering the Salt Lake office on Friday morning.
Less than an hour before Bose’s arrest, the chief minister said in a public meeting at Nadia that no one from her party was involved in the scam.
CBI sleuths also grilled state textile minister Shyamapada Mukherjee and Congress leader Somen Mitra while transport minister Madan Mitra skipped questioning, citing ill health.
The Saradha scam has turned into a major embarrassment for Banerjee, who has been accused by opposition parties of trying to shield some of the beneficiaries of the company’s slush funds.
“UPA 2 used the CBI. BJP is just doing replay. They cannot touch us politically and, therefore, are doing this. This is nothing more than political vendetta and a political game,” said Trinamool’s national spokesperson Derek O’Brien.
The collapse of the Ponzi scheme resulted in the loss of hundreds of crores to thousands of investors — largely from rural areas with little access to banking facilities.
“Mamata had said she will resign. Now she should start writing the letter at least. Dots are joining and will finally land at Mamata’s doorstep,” said BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh.
CBI officials said Bose failed to explain during questioning why Saradha Group chief Sudipto Sen gave him large sums of money for several months.
An associate of the MP said the payments were part of a business deal between a Saradha-run TV channel and Pratidin, the newspaper owned by Bose’s family.