2 min read.Updated: 26 Sep 2014, 12:49 AM ISTManish Basu
Group chairman Gautam Kundu meets ED officials to request it to unfreeze accounts so salaries could be paid
Kolkata: The Rose Valley Group, which has been collecting money in several states in eastern India under a controversial holiday-membership plan, on Thursday said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sealed more than 2,500 of its bank accounts.
Though not summoned to depose, group chairman Gautam Kundu met ED officials in Kolkata on Thursday to request the agency to unfreeze the accounts so that salaries could be paid to its 10,000 employees, Rose Valley said in a statement.
ED officials weren’t available for comments.
For the past few months, ED has been investigating the operations of enterprises such as the now defunct Saradha Group and Rose Valley, which collected deposits under controversial schemes. The agency, which probes money laundering and foreign exchange violations, has so far focused on the Saradha Group.
Saradha was one of eastern India’s biggest deposit-taking firms, which went bust in April last year after it defaulted on depositor repayment. The founder of the now defunct Saradha group, Sudipta Sen, was sentenced by a Kolkata court earlier this year to three years in jail—the first conviction in a series of criminal cases pending against him for almost a year.
Rose Valley is perhaps the only deposit-collecting firm that has so far survived the recent crackdowns by various central agencies, West Bengal police and other neighbouring states.
By freezing its bank accounts, the ED has pulled the plug on Rose Valley’s operations, said an adviser to the group, who did not wish to be identified.
Though there are some delays in repayment, Rose Valley hasn’t cheated any investor, this person said, but in the wake of the latest development, it may become impossible to make any payment at all.
It isn’t immediately clear whether Rose Valley will survive the ED’s move, but if it runs aground, it will affect many more people than last year’s collapse of the Saradha Group, which shook up the entire spectrum of deposit-collecting companies in eastern India.
Rose Valley claims to own 23 hotels across India. It is also pursuing several real estate projects, which are at various stages of completion.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had said in an order last year that Rose Valley was plying illegitimate collective investment schemes without the permission of the country’s capital markets regulator.
Rose Valley has legally challenged the order, saying that Sebi doesn’t have the jurisdiction to regulate the sale of so-called time share in its hotel properties and so refused to give details of its collections.
However, in April, Amit Banerjee, a key Rose Valley official who oversaw its field agents, had admitted that the group had collected at least ₹ 10,000 crore under its holiday-membership plans. In the same interview, he said the group had repaid ₹ 6,200 crore over the years. Mint couldn’t independently verify these claims.
On Friday, Rose Valley was expected to propose to a commission of inquiry, constituted in the wake of the Saradha Group collapse, its plan for repayment of investors under another scheme, which it may wind down, according to the group’s adviser cited above.
Rose Valley Real Estates and Constructions Ltd owes depositors around ₹ 260 crore, said this person. The company has land worth at least ₹ 1,450 crore, which could be sold but because of restrictions imposed by various authorities on transfer of its properties, Rose Valley is unable to liquidate this asset.
However, with its bank accounts frozen, it is feared that Rose Valley could soon turn delinquent and go the same way as other enterprises like it, the group’s adviser said, adding that the ED’s move will be challenged legally.