Kolkata: Even as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee attacked recent arrests of Trinamool Congress leaders as “politically motivated", Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya on Wednesday said he will ask the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the alleged role of Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in destroying documentary evidence against the now-defunct Saradha group.
In the wake of the collapse of Saradha group in early 2013, owing crores of rupees to depositors, Banerjee had formed a special investigation team (SIT) under Kumar and tasked it with investigating firms that received public deposits. The SIT focused primarily on the Saradha group, which is estimated to have received around Rs2,500 crore in public deposits. In about a year, the team was disbanded and the Supreme Court gave the mandate for the probe to the CBI.
Vijayvargiya alleged on Wednesday that Kumar had destroyed documentary evidence that his team had gathered from the Saradha group to protect Trinamool Congress leaders who had lent their name and goodwill to help its business to flourish. This is not the first time such an allegation has been made against Kumar, a controversial police officer, who was removed by the Election Commission of India as Kolkata’s police commissioner ahead of this year’s assembly election.
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He was reinstated as the city’s police chief after Banerjee won. Kumar wasn’t immediately available for comments and didn’t return calls made to his mobile phone.
The SIT wasn’t keen on giving up the probe, and clashed with the Enforcement Directorate (ED)—a central agency which investigates money laundering and foreign exchange violations—over the contents of a bank locker held by Saradha group chairman Sudipta Sen’s wife Piyali. Even after the ED had obtained a court order to access it, the SIT in a late-night swoop in April 2014 emptied the locker, seizing everything.
The central agency had filed a formal complaint with the Calcutta high court about the SIT’s unwillingness to co-operate with its investigation before the Supreme Court mothballed the unit. But by then, a lot of documents had already been destroyed by Kumar and his team in order to protect their political bosses, Vijayvargiya alleged.
Responding to the allegation, Partha Chatterjee, a cabinet minister in West Bengal and a key Trinamool Congress leader, said these were signs of the BJP’s “vindictive politics", echoing Banerjee’s claim that the CBI has turned the heat on her party’s leaders—it arrested two members of Parliament in five days—because of her opposition to demonetisation. Chatterjee on Wednesday said his party’s stir against demonetisation will continue.
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CBI officers in Kolkata said the investigation into the Saradha group’s operations was hobbled by lack of documents.
Typically such cases of alleged cheating and conspiracy are built on two things: documents recovered from the accused and statements made by them during the investigation, these officers said, asking not to be named. These are combined to establish culpability during trial.
But with the Saradha group, documents are deficient and the trial will be heavily dependent on what people detained by the agency said during interrogation. Statements not backed up by documents are not considered strong evidence, they added.
Citing the unrest in front of its state headquarters on Tuesday, the BJP also said the police did nothing to protect its properties from being vandalised by Trinamool Congress supporters. Unknown people attacked BJP’s office on Tuesday, laying siege to it for hours, after MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay was arrested.