Widening its probe into the multi-crore Saradha scam, the Enforcement Directorate has issued summons to numerous entities even as it has attached assets worth Rs 140 crore (Rs 1.4 billion) of individuals and firms on money laundering charges.
The central probe agency has also issued a notice asking general public ‘to furnish information and particulars of properties, both movable and immovable as well as bank accounts, in the state of West Bengal and other places, if any, related to Saradha group known to them, with specific details’ to it.
The agency's zonal office in Kolkata has recently issued summons to close to 15 people involved in the funds transactions of the scam that was being perpetrated largely in West Bengal, Odisha and Assam and came to the fore early last year after duped investors raised their voice of grievance.
The agency has asked those involved in the case, including some sitting and former MPs and their family members, to present themselves or send their authorised representatives for recording of their statements under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act before April 25.
The notices come in the backdrop of the agency, last week, attaching Rs 105.62 crore assets of various entities involved in the case, including Saradha Director Sudipta Sen and his wife Piyali.
It had attached Rs 34 crore (Rs 340 million) worth of assets earlier in the same probe.
ED registered a money laundering case last year taking cognisance of the three state police departments.
The agency has till now issued attachment orders on all equity shares of all 224 companies of the Saradha group, insurance policies in the name of Sen and his wife, numerous land properties and plots, 390 bank accounts and equity shares of a TV channel run by the beleaguered group.
The agency has also issued an advisory that no one should ‘transact’
The large-scale chit fund scam in West Bengal involving the Saradha Group involves around a total sum of Rs 2,460 crore (Rs 24.6 billion) with 80 per cent of the depositors' monies still remaining unpaid, as per a joint investigation report of the ED and the West Bengal police.
The report stated that Sen was in ‘total control’ of all deposits made by his group companies which are under the scanner for having perpetrated the alleged fraud.
Four companies of the Saradha Group, the report said, used to mobilise money through three schemes -- 'fixed deposit', 'recurring deposit' and 'monthly income deposit' -- which lured innocent depositors with promises of either ‘landed property or a foreign tour’ as incentive returns.
The report stated that ‘the summary report (of the group) for the years 2008-12 revealed that the four companies of Saradha Group had mobilised an amount of Rs 2,459.59 crore (Rs 24.59 billion) through issuance of their policies.’ "The investors were paid an amount of Rs 476.57 crore (Rs 4.76 billion).
As of April 16, 2013, the principal amount to be paid to the investors stood at Rs 1,983.02 crore (Rs 19.83 billion)," the report added. Sleuths found that the four Saradha Group companies, namely, Saradha Realty India Ltd, Saradha Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd, Saradha Housing Pvt Ltd and Saradha Garden Resort and Hotels Pvt Ltd were in the business of mobilising money from gullible investors.
"Investors were also given the option of encashing their investment after the specified period along with very high returns," the report said.
Describing the working of the scam, which broke early last year, the report stated that the "investigation so far carried out revealed that Sen had floated various companies, through numerous branch offices in West Bengal as also in Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and other states to mobilise deposits from the public".