Number 23 in the NewsX NPA list is RP Infosystems Ltd. According to our list, the company owes Punjab National Bank Rs 73 crore which has now been classified as an NPA. The registered address of the company is 20/1 c, Lalbazar, Kolkata. According to the ROC data with the ministry of corporate affairs, the company was incorporated in February 2005 with an authorised capital of Rs 75 crore. The company held it’s last AGM in December 2013 and filed its last balance sheet in September 2013. The directors of the company on the ROC records are Arabinda bose, Kaustuv Ray and Dippriya Mitter. Only Kaustav Ray appears on the NewsX NPA list, along with Shibaji Panja, Vinay Bafna and Debnath Pal.
This is a case where a company allegedly cheated a consortium of banks. Time and again the directors have been arrested, but have somehow found their way back to dupe the system. This is the story of RP Infosystems Pvt Ltd, a Kolkata based computer manufacturing company. When we checked the ROC records further, we found this loan worth Rs 45 crore, another loan worth Rs 2.5 crore, 4 loans worth Rs 50 crore each. Another loan worth Rs 30 crore, then this loan worth Rs 25 crore. Also these last two loans worth Rs 28 and Rs 40 crore respectively. This takes the total in the ROC records to a little over Rs 370 crore.
Besides computers, the directors of the company Shibaji Panja and Kaustuv Ray are also involved in the film and media industry. Shibaji Panja produced the famous Byomkesh Bakshi series and other films like Ebar Shabor, Rahasya and Satyanweshi. As we dug further, we found this article by the Sunday Guardian which offers more insight into Shibaji’s background. The report alleges Shibaji Panja had close relations with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee but in February 2015, he was detained by the West Bengal police for Rs 180 crore fraud. The allegations were levelled by IDBI bank, Panja was soon out. Four months later in the same year, CBI had booked Panja and the other directors of RP Info Systems.
Surely enough, when we went back to our own archives, we found this video of Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee responding to Shibaji Panja’s arrest. Then we come to director number 2 Kaustuv Ray. We found this media report, once again from 2015, alleging that Kaustav Ray too was arrested for allegedly cheating a financial company.. According to this media report, Kaustuv Ray took over the local news channel Kolkata TV in 2009. This report further says that Kaustav too was backed by the Trinamool Congress.
So computer manufacturers with an interest in films and media have allegedly managed to dupe the banks of hundreds of crores. While media reports suggest that they’ve been booked previously for the same fraud when we hit the ground, this is what we found. RP Infosystems office in Kolkata is still functioning. Staff inside informed us that 3 out of the 4 directors of the company resigned years back. Kaustuv Ray is the only director left.
A media report from February 2018 says that the CBI had filed an FIR against the directors of RP Infosystems for cheating a consortium of banks for over Rs 515 crore. The complaint was filed by state-run Canara Bank. The other allegedly defrauded banks include SBI, Union Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Oriental Bank, PNB and Federal Bank. According to this media report, the directors of the company in the alleged conspiracy with unknown bank officials defrauded the banks on the basis of fabricated documents. The report further says that the company began devolving in 2012 due to non-maintenance of funds. Media reports further suggest that the CBI moved swiftly. This is a report from 15th March 2018 which claims that the directors were arrested. We were able to access the official CBI statement on the case, confirming the arrest of Shibaji Panja and Kaustav Ray. The CBI report sheds light on the company’s modus operandi. It says that the borrower didn’t route the sale proceeds through their loan account but fraudulently syphoned off the money, failing to the pay the banks back.
According to this media report, the Enforcement Directorate has already begun the process of attaching various company assets which are currently valued at Rs 70 crores. So an alleged Rs 515 crore loss and the collateral is just worth Rs 70 crore. Also, remember that Shibaji Panja was arrested on 15th March. A media report from 23rd March, just 8 days later, claims that Shibaji Panja is now out on bail on a personal bond by a CBI court. Panja will have to pay Rs 10 lakh.
We wrote to the company and actually got a response. The respondent claims that he’s no longer associated with the company, but somehow still has access to the company’s official email address. Clearly, the company’s information hasn’t been updated. We’ve written to the bank as well, but haven’t heard back from them yet. Let’s put the puzzle pieces together. Kaustuv Ray, Shibaji Panja and Vinay Bafa started RP Infosystems in 2005. On the NewsX NPA list, the company owes PNB Rs 73 crore. While the ROC records show loans worth Rs 370 crore to a number of banks.
According to media reports, Shibaji Panja and Kaustav Ray were arrested in 2015 for cheating IDBI bank of Rs 180 crores. The two were soon out on bail, what became of that case is not known. Then we fast forward to 2018 and once again the directors of RP Infosystems made their way into the news after an FIR was filed against the company by the CBI. This time it was a case of cheating a consortium of banks of Rs 515 crore while the ED has started attaching the companies assets to recover the amount, one of the directors — Shibaji Panja is already out on bail.
This is a story that proves the power of connections. It shows that if you know the right people in the right places, you can cheat the system without fear. It’s the fear of the law, that keeps us from committing crimes but if we were to remove fear from the equation, then what’s ever going to stop anybody from being corrupt or committing offences?