The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is turning its gaze towards a “larger conspiracy” in the multi-crore chit fund scam by Saradha group of companies on the directions of the Supreme Court. Beside investigating the role of regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the agency would look into “the roles of several important individuals wielding considerable influence within the system at the state and national levels.”
A list of such persons who “need to be questioned in view of the disclosures made and the evidence collected so far” has been given to the apex court by the investigative agency.
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The agency has got together its officials from Assam, Odisha and West Bengal to form the special investigation team (SIT) to probe the Saradha scam, which runs into over Rs 10,000 crore. The team is in the process of collecting documents before registering the first information report (FIR) in the matter, a senior official said.
Investigations, so far, indicate the money collected from the public was spread over 160 companies and was spent or siphoned off, and no major revenue was generated by any group company.
The Supreme Court in its order said “a huge gap between the amount collected and the investments made in real estate itself calls for effective investigation as to the trail of money collected by the group of companies.”
CBI will begin probing as many as 347 bank accounts of Saradha group companies across 15 banks.
On the possible role of RBI and Sebi, the apex court has said “the scam of this magnitude going on for years unnoticed and unchecked, is suggestive of a deep-rooted apathy if not criminal neglect, on the part of the regulators that ought to do everything necessary to prevent such fraud and public loot.”
The SC has also mentioned that companies in Ponzi schemes have tentacles in different states and hence, the ramifications are inter-state. “That such huge collections could have international money laundering dimensions cannot be ruled out and needs to be effectively investigated,” the order said.
The Enforcement Directorate is already probing the matter and is expected to file a chargesheet by July.
The Saradha scam had come to light in April 2013. Saradha Reality India Ltd and its other three group companies collected money from the open market, reaching out to the general public by employing a huge number of agents, in the form of investments under different schemes, viz fixed deposits, monthly investment scheme, recurring deposits.
A report by Sebi details that Saradha on the pretext of land developers, construction of flats, running tours and travels, travel packages and resorts has collected Rs 2,459 crore over five years.
* CBI has got together its officials from Assam, Odisha and West Bengal to form a special investigation team to probe the scam
* The agency will begin probing as many as 347 bank accounts of Saradha group companies across 15 banks soon
* SIT was formed in the wake of the Supreme Court order on a PIL on Friday asking CBI to probe the matter and directing the state police forces to cooperate with the central agency in the investigation