Chit fund scam: Kolkata Police briefly detain CBI team which wanted to quiz top cop
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers, who came to question Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha ponzi scam, were detained by Kolkata police in an unprecedented chain of events that also witnessed chief minister Mamata Banerjee rushing to the city police chief’s residence.
Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, all senior police officers of the state including director general of police, ADG (law and order), joint commissioner of Kolkata police rushed to Kumar’s south Kolkata residence on Loudon Street and held an emergency meeting. (Read live updates here)
Policemen forced the CBI officers including Tathagata Bardhan, deputy superintendent who led the team, into vehicles and took them to Shakespeare police station after more than half an hour of altercation that eventually turned into minor scuffles between the cops and the CBI sleuths.
At 8:40 pm, under instruction from Mamata Banerjee, the CBI officers were allowed to walk out of the Shakespeare Sarani police station where they were detained.
In Delhi, ANI quoted Interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao as saying, “We are contacting our senior law officers about the Kolkata incident. Whatever they suggest will be followed.”
Police teams were also sent outside the Central Government Office complex in Salt Lake where the CBI and ED have their offices. A police team was also dispatched at Nizam Palace, another office of CBI officers.
The development took place a day after Mamata Banerjee took a dig at the Narendra Modi government and stood by Kumar following rumours that CBI could soon arrest Kumar, who was issued summons a few times for questioning, all of which he ignored.
“The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta. Not only are political parties their targets, they are misusing power to take control of the police and destroy all institutions. We condemn this,” she said in her first tweet on Saturday night.
“The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. His integrity, bravery and honesty are unquestioned. He is working 24x7, and was on leave for only one day recently. When you spread lies, the lies will always remain lies,” the following tweet said.
On Sunday evening, barely an hour after Kolkata police additional commissioner (I) Jawed Shamim held a press conference and rubbished media reports about Kumar’s impending arrest, the CBI team reached Kumar’s residence.
However, the team was barred from entry by Kolkata Police officials led by deputy commissioner of police (south division) Meeraj Khalid and other police officers. They told the CBI officers that they needed permission to enter Kumar’s house.
They also asked whether Bardhan’s team had any document with them that authorised their act.
Cops of the anti rowdy section of Kolkata Police rushed to the spot to tackle the situation.
While Bardhan argued that they had come to interrogate Kumar in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam and were entirely within their legal jurisdictions to do so, Khalid said they could not be allowed to enter the residence because they did not intimate the police in advance.
Officers said on conditions of anonymity that CBI is likely to lodge a complaint with the Union home ministry that they were prevented from discharging their duty.
Jawed Shamim earlier claimed that appeal of Kolkata police against CBI’s notices seeking Kumar’s appearance before them is pending before the Calcutta high court and that the CBI was in no position to take any further step. Shamim said the investigative agency could not act further on those notices till February 13, according to the Calcutta high court order.
Kumar has been at a centre of TMC’s political opponents’ attacks over the past few years for his alleged role in destroying evidences that linked Banerjee’s close aides with the Saradha chit fund scam. CBI is probing this scam since 2014 on instruction from the Supreme Court of India.
All of Bengal’s opposition parties condemned the role of Kolkata Police and the chief minister.
“This is an unprecedented attack on the country’s federal structure,” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s national executive member Mukul Roy, who is also the party’s Lok Sabha election management committee head for Bengal.
Pradesh Congress president Somen Mitra said the city police chief should face the central agency. “If Kumar is innocent, what is he afraid of?” Mitra asked.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee member Rabin Deb condemned Banerjee’s role. “This is an example to show how the rule of law has collapsed in Bengal. The chief minister is showing the way of violating law. She is desperate to protect Kumar because he, as the head of the state government’s Special Investigating Team (SIT), led the work of destroying evidences that linked Kalighat (where the chief minister lives) with the chit fund scam,” Deb said.
Kumar, when he headed Bidhan Nagar police commissionerate, led the SIT on Saradha chit fund scam. Opposition parties repeatedly alleged that a number of documents, including a red diary, which the team led by Kumar had reportedly seized had not been handed over to the CBI when the apex court ordered the central agency to probe into the scam.
“The chief minister ordered the manhandling of CBI officers. This is shameful,” Deb said.
CBI is investigating the ponzi scams under instructions from the Supreme Court.
A senior bureaucrat said the CBI is completely within its rights to question Kumar and no further approvals are needed from the state government in this regard.
The Saradha ponzi scam that was exposed in April 2013 that sunk Rs 24.70 billion of depositor money. A number of Trinamool leaders including a minister, Rajya Sabha MPs and a vice-president were arrested in the scam.
Last week CBI also questioned Manik Majumdar, a close aide of Mamata Banerjee, in connection with money in the ruling party’s account.
Over the past two days, chief minister Mamata Banerjee issued veiled warnings to the BJP in Bengal and said that if the Centre wants to let investigative agencies such as the CBI and Enforcement Directorate on them, her government also had CID, Special Task Force of Kolkata Police and economic offences wing of state police to get even.