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Home / Politics / Policy /  Ponzi schemes: iCore MD Anukul Maiti arrested in West Bengal

Kolkata: The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the West Bengal police on Thursday said that it had arrested Anukul Maiti, managing director of the iCore group of enterprises, which ran Ponzi schemes till the middle of 2013 and is said to have collected at least 3,000 crore.

Maiti was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by a depositor last June at a police station in the northern suburbs of Kolkata, said Dilip Kumar Adak, a CID officer. The state police launched a probe immediately, which led to Maiti’s arrest on Thursday from an upscale south Kolkata neighbourhood, said a policeman who did not wish to be identified.

Maiti has been charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy and several other crimes; if the charges are proven he could spend at least 10 years in jail. He was produced in a local court and remanded in custody for 11 days.

With Maiti’s arrest, the spotlight shifts back to West Bengal sports and transport minister Madan Mitra, whose son Swarup Mitra was a director of iCore Global Medicines Ltd. According to the last annual return filed by the firm—which has hardly any business—Swarup Mitra, 34, joined its board on 2 February 2010. It isn’t immediately known whether he continues to be on the board or has stepped down. The firm has stopped filing returns with the Registrar of Companies: the last one filed was for 2012-13.

Swarup Mitra couldn’t be contacted for comments despite several attempts.

Madan Mitra, who is currently in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has made several public statements saying neither he nor any of his near relations benefited from Ponzi operators.

Adak said the iCore group ran at least 15 companies, and had operations in Tripura, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, apart from West Bengal. Maiti, according to him, was an agent of Peerless General Finance and Investment Co. Ltd till 2005, and launched his own firm in 2007. The iCore enterprises ran aground soon after Saradha Group collapsed in April 2013.

Peerless pioneered door-to-door collection of deposits in eastern India and ran a roaring business till the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) forced it to wind down in June 2011, making at least 60,000 field agents redundant.

Many of these agents cashed in on Peerless’s unblemished repayment track record to launch their own firms and started to collect household savings. Ironically, RBI has no control on these firms because they didn’t seek registration with the banking regulator.

Complaints of default were lodged against the iCore group’s firms with a commission set up in the wake of Saradha Group’s collapse to probe and compensate victims of deposit-taking firms, but the state administration chose not to act on them.

The commission, which said it didn’t have the resources to launch multiple investigations and focused only on the Saradha Group, was wound up by the state government after the Supreme Court handed over the probe to CBI around a year ago.

Though CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a federal agency that probes foreign exchange violations and money laundering, initially focused on Saradha Group, they slowly expanded their investigation into the operations of others such as Rose Valley and MPS; iCore might not have been far behind in view of its scale of operations.

In another related development, a judge of the Calcutta high court, Indira Banerjee, on Thursday refused to hear the bail petition moved by Madan Mitra on personal grounds. After being in CBI’s custody from last December, Mitra has moved the Calcutta high court seeking bail.

Mitra was arrested by CBI on charges of abetting cheating by deposit-taking companies on the strength of his sway over the administration as a minister in the state government.

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