Kolkata: Sudipta Sen, chairman of the now defunct Saradha Group, was on Friday sentenced by a Kolkata court to three years in jail—the first conviction in a series of criminal cases pending against him for almost a year.

Saradha was one of eastern India’s biggest deposit-taking firms, which went bust in April last year after it defaulted on depositor repayment. Sen fled Kolkata, but was arrested along with accomplices in Sonmarg in Kashmir within a few days and hauled back to the city by police.

At a trial court in Kolkata, Sen admitted to having failed to deposit with the provident fund authorities 3.68 lakh that his firm Bengal Media Pvt. Ltd owed to its employees. It didn’t clear provident fund dues for three years till 2013, when the television channels run by this firm faced closure.

This firm used to run a Bengali news television channel.

Turning out on shows with teary eyes and complaining of an uncertain future, anchors of the group’s entertainment channels got the attention of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who launched a manhunt. The employees of the group’s media units were among the first to file a police complaint against Sen.

Depositors followed suit, forcing the state government to form a commission headed by a retired judge to investigate the operations of Saradha Group and to scrutinize claims for repayment made by duped depositors. The state government also created a 500 crore fund to compensate them.

More serious cases of fraud and forgery are pending against Sen in various trial courts of Kolkata. He will have to serve more time if convicted in them.

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