In about seven years, a small-time builder in the southern fringe of Kolkata became Bengal’s ponzie king with a Rs. 20,000-crore kitty – that’s the figure being quoted unofficially – to play around with politics, media, construction and lakhs of lives.
The name is Sudipto Sen, or that’s what he called himself before staging a vanishing act. Sources said although he suddenly burst onto the scene, especially after the exit of the 34-year-old Left Front government in West Bengal in 2011, nobody is sure who Sen actually is. The chairman of the Saradha group used such a thick smokescreen to hide himself that even after he started his media empire, most of his employees never got to see the big man. His strict instruction was never to put his picture in public.
Why? People in the know believe that he is the son of Bhudeb Sen, owner of another chit fund Sanchayani Savings and Investment Company, which defaulted on payments in the early 1990s.
Bhudeb Sen was promptly packed off to jail. But, interestingly, his son Sudeb disappeared and, according to rumours, underwent a series of plastic surgeries.
Entered Sudipto Sen. He began with a small office in Behala in the southern fringes of Kolkata and started selling plots in and around Pailan, farther south.
But his real success came after 2006-07 when Saradha was born. During the next seven years, he mopped up a huge amount of deposits that may have run up to more than Rs. 20,000 crore.