Court orders auction of Saradha group's Odisha properties
A court in Balasore, Odisha has ordered the state government to auction all the confiscated properties of the Saradha Group, involved in a massive chit-fund scam. The court confiscated 13.64 acres of land belonging to the company, and would equitably distribute the sale proceeds among investors who were cheated in the scam. The value of the seized property is estimated at Rs.4.2 crore.
What was the Saradha scam?
Saradha Scam is a multi-crore financial scandal in which 17 lakh people were cheated of their savings in West Bengal. This involved attracting investors in the name of 'chit funds' with a promise of high rate of returns with minimal risk. The scam blew up when Saradha group collapsed in 2013, after having collected close to Rs 15,000 crore of depositors' money.
Saradha Group and its working
Saradha Group was a consortium of companies which was started in 2008. It was headed by Sudipto Sen, its chairman. The group collected deposits from investors through collection agents, promising a high return between 12-24%. The agents too were assured of around 15-20% of commission on the funds collected by them. The system depended on steady stream of new deposits.
Agents cum investors
The Saradha group had about 2.5-3.5 lakh agents who also deposited their money with the company.
Multi Agency probe
The government had launched a multi-agency probe into the Saradha scam involving SEBI, RBI, Corporate Affairs Ministry, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax department etc. The ED registered a case of money laundering against Saradha group. ED was also believed to go through the transactions - both business and personal, of the company's Chairman Sudipto Sen, who was arrested on 23 Apr, 2013.
SC hands over Saradha investigation to CBI
A PIL was filed with the Supreme Court in 2013, seeking CBI probe in the Saradha scam. After several deliberations, the court in May 2014, hand over the investigation to CBI. Apex court said that CBI will look into the inter-state ramification of the ponzi scams in Odisha, and West Bengal. CBI was also asked to probe the money laundering dimension of the case.
The Saradha-TMC connection
Saradha Group was closely associated with Trinamool Congress Party (TMC), the party in power, in West Bengal. Reportedly, Sudipto Sen gifted CM Mamta Banerjee a painting worth Rs 1.86 crore. Madan Mitra, the former West Bengal Transport Minister had previously endorsed Saradha's Ponzi scheme. He was arrested by the CBI in relation to it in Dec 2014 on charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating.
Some Key arrests
Apart from the arrest of Saradha Director Shibnarayan Das, some of the TMC leaders including MPs Srinjoy Bose, and Kunal Ghosh; TMC Vice President and former DGP Rajat Majumdar; and former Union Minister from Congress Matang Sinh, were arrested in association to the Saradha Scam.
Saradha Scam : ED to question Nalini Chidambaram
The Enforcement Directorate summoned Nalini Chidambaram, the spouse of Ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in relation to the Saradha scam probe. Nalini Chidambaram, a senior lawyer, was asked to appear before ED's office to be questioned pertaining to legal fee paid to her by Saradha Group. She was earlier questioned in this regard but was now being summoned in the "light of new evidence".