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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

‘Rose Valley chit-fund scam 7 times bigger than Saradha’

nation Updated: May 28, 2016 07:34 IST
Abhishek Sharan
Abhishek Sharan

NEW DELHI: The West Bengal-based Rose Valley group cheated investors of Rs 17,000 crore, the CBI has confirmed, making the chit-fund scam seven times bigger than the Saradha scandal that generated a lot of political heat in the eastern state.

The hospitality-to-real estate group robbed millions of investors, most of them from low-income group, in at least 10 states, including West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, promising exaggerated returns, agency sources told HT on Thursday.

“In popular perception, the Saradha Group has been the biggest culprit that duped the public of its hard-earned money, but it was actually the RV (Rose Valley) group in India’s Northeast and eastern states,” a source familiar with the investigation said.

A lot of numbers were being thrown around after the Supreme Court in May 2014 ordered a probe against 24 chit-fund firms in a Rs 1.2lakh crore financial scandal but it is now that the Central Bureau of Investigation has come up with the sums stolen from investors.

Documents accessed by HT show that the little-known Rose Valley group is the biggest player in the scandal involving firms operating unlicensed financial schemes that escaped regulators’ scrutiny. In fact, the extent of fraud committed by many other firms is also much bigger than previously thought.

It is believed that more than 60 million Indians – nearly one in every 20 people – have been victims of such unregulated, or chit-fund, schemes. These schemes are typically targeted at Tier 2 and 3 cities where unsuspecting investors, most of whom are outside the banking system, are lured with ‘money-multiplying’ offers.

Saradha chairman Sudipta Ghosh’s alleged admission of cheating in April 2013 had blown the lid off these scams. Rose valley group chairman Gautam Kundu was arrested last year on charges of money laundering.

The RV group made a modest start in the hospitality sector in Bengal in the late 1990s. It later expanded to real estate, film and media sectors and was also as a corporate agent of a state-owned insurer.

The CBI, which is still investigating the case, has submitted a charge sheet against four senior Rose Valley officials, including Kundu, in a Bhubaneswar court in January. Three group firms-- Rose Valley Real Estate & Construction Ltd., Rose Valley Hotel & Entertainment Ltd and Rose Valley Real Estate & Land Bank India Ltd – have also been named.

West Bengal-based Basil International Limited, which allegedly robbed investors of Rs 3,500 crore, is second on the CBI’s ‘scamster list’, pushing Saradha group to the third place. The collapse of Saradha group wiped out Rs 2,500 crore in deposits.

“The CBI has arrested Basil Ltd’s Dr PPS Sethi for duping investors to the tune of Rs 3,500 crore in the name of monthly collections for providing consumer goods,” spokesperson Devpreet Singh told HT.