Sudipta Sen, the chief architect of the Rs. 2,000-crore Saradha chit fund scam, parked hard earned investor funds into loss-making companies to convert huge black money into white, a probe report has revealed.
The Enforcement Directorate, which is probing the scam under anti-money laundering laws, has detected it was a “common practice” deployed by Mr. Sen to channel the criminal proceeds of the scam into loss-making companies so as to “distance the original tainted source from the money generated by the companies (Saradha firms which collected money from investors).”
“It appears that the investments in these properties (sick units) are shown only for regularising the crime proceeds as mobilised by the four companies of the Saradha group in cash, which actually is the placement of the crime proceeds,” a probe report filed by the agency in a court said.
“It is seen from the investigation that it was a common practice of Sudipta Sen to acquire a number of flats in different parts of West Bengal as well as in other States (Delhi, Odisha, and Assam) in the name of Saradha Realty India Limited.
“These investments were done on behalf of the company (Saradha Realty) but were ultimately enjoyed by Sudipta personally. This clearly appears the laundering of the public money mobilised from the common masses on the false promise of lucrative returns,” the report, accessed by PTI, said.
The ED probe found a “considerable part” of every purchased asset, movable or immovable, was further paid in cash to many of the sellers of the properties for “evading the stamp duties and for other reasons best known to Sudipta”.
“Thus, it can be presumed that in cases where a part payment has been made initially and no further payment has been made for a long interval, payments could have been made in cash,” the agency said after close to two years of its investigation in the case, indicating the method of generation of black money in the scam.
The ED, on the basis of various police FIRs filed by States such as West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha, had registered a criminal case under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in 2013 and it has attached assets worth over Rs. 700 crore in this case till now.
The agency said all criminal proceeds of the scam, after cheating numerous gullible investors of their hard earned deposits, were mostly mobilised by four Saradha firms Saradha Realty India Limited, Saradha Tours and Travel Private Limited, Saradha Garden Resort and Hotels Private Limited, and Saradha Housing Private Limited.
The firms, the agency said, were “engaged in mobilising the money from public on false promises of high interest which is not possible”.
“It has been detected, the probe report said, that “the money mobilised by Saradha Realty India Limited and Saradha Tours and Travel Pvt Ltd have been paid into the resorts, flats, companies among others… so as to distance the crime proceeds by mixing the same with the incomes of the companies.”
The agency has cited examples in its report to prove that Sudipta was purchasing sick companies to hide his black money and also to convert illicit funds into white or clean money.
“It could be seen in the case of M/s Bengal Awadhoot Agro Pvt Ltd, Land Mark Cements, Aranya View Resort, M/s Amma Dairy etc that either the companies earlier ran in losses or they were having huge bank liabilities.
“For the placement of the money, Sudipta acquired a common practise of purchasing them by meeting the bank liabilities as well as paying them an additional sum besides that to acquire total controlling stake in the company. It is as the method adopted by Sudipta that he used to wield the sway over the company/ies (sick unit),” the agency said.
The ED, which has questioned Mr. Sen and numerous other politicians and Members of Parliament in this scam probe is expected to soon file a comprehensive charge sheet soon, after the CBI recently did so.