Bose faces charges of criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of funds and deriving undue financial benefits
Kolkata: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Srinjoy Bose, who is also owner-editor of a Bengali daily, on Friday in connection with the Saradha group swindle.
Bose faces charges of criminal conspiracy, misappropriation of funds and deriving undue financial benefits, said a CBI official who didn’t want to be named.
Bose, who has so far been sent summons to depose as a witness, has now turned a suspect in the case. He is the second member of Parliament from the Trinamool Congress to be arrested by CBI, after Kunal Ghosh.
Two other Trinamool Congress MPs—Ahmed Hasan Imran and Arpita Ghosh—have been questioned by central agencies in connection with the Saradha scam. West Bengal’s transport minister Madan Mitra was sent summons to depose before CBI on Friday, but because he is in a hospital undergoing treatment, he didn’t appear before the agency.
Bose’s involvement with the Saradha Group came up during interrogation of the two prime suspects in the scam, Saradha group’s chairman and managing director Sudipta Sen and Ghosh, both of whom are already in custody.
Sen, in a purported letter to CBI, alleged Bose had compelled him to enter into a business deal when he launched his Channel 10.
Sen wrote Bose and Ghosh had made him enter into an agreement through which Bose offered editorial support to his channel for ₹ 60 lakh per month. He had said in the letter that he had given ₹ 20 crore to Bose for running the channel for two years.
Bose had earlier told the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) that his connection with the Saradha Group was purely on the editorial front.
According to CBI officers, Bose had wielded his political clout and proximity to chief minister Mamata Banerjee to pressurize Sen into entering into such an agreement.
Meanwhile, transport minister Mitra on Thursday got himself admitted to state government’s premier hospital SSKM.
CBI, however, said it was considering sending a team of doctors from the capital to review the medical reports and assess whether Mitra was in the hospital trying to evade an appearance before the CBI.
Bose’s arrest has dealt a big blow to the ruling Trinamool Congress for Banerjee had defended Bose at a public rally when names of Ghosh, Bose and Mukul Roy were doing the rounds for their involvement with the Saradha Group.
However, the party is trying to put up a brave front by showing it had detached itself from Bose and Suvaprasanna, who were being repeatedly summoned by the central investigating agencies over the last few months.
A Trinamool Congress leader said on conditions of anonymity that the party cannot be held responsible for criminal activities of an individual. The party has distanced itself from former police chief Rajat Mazumdar, even though he was the party’s vice-president, a close confidante of party general secretary Roy and the key person in charge of Banerjee’s security prior to 2011 assembly election.
Banerjee has already clipped the wings of Roy, and Mitra is sidelined in the party. Bose, whose media house had been sponsoring the Kolkata International Film Festival since Banerjee became chief minister in 2011, was asked to remain in the wings this time. Even the media house, despite its willingness to host a dinner, was asked to stay away.
Bose’s family owns Ripley and Co., which has so far enjoyed a monopoly in cargo-handling operations in Haldia port. Ripley charges ₹ 200-300 a tonne for handling and unloading cargo. A recent tender by Kolkata port has capped cargo-handling charges at ₹ 119.48 a tonne at Haldia port. Ripley and many other companies participated in the tender.