The Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI), which was by the Supreme Court in May 2014 to investigate the and other chit-fund scams that had duped millions of investors of an estimates Rs 50,000 crore across Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Tripura, has hastened the pace of investigations and wants to file the final chargesheet within the next couple of months. And this is sure to trigger political turmoil in Bengal since many leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress are likely to named in the chargesheet.
A firm indication that the CBI is determined to complete the investigations, which have dragged on for 4.5 years now, very soon came in the of 17-odd paintings of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee last week from chit-fund companies anda tainted businessman with close links to the Trinamool. The CBI has also issued summons to Trinamool general secretary Subrata Bakshi and its Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien. The CBI reportedly feels that paintings were bought by the chit fund companies with depositors’ funds and only to please Mamata Banerjee after she came to power in 2011.
It is the seizure of the paintings that has touched a raw nerve in the Trinamool. Mamata Banerjee had herself admitted that about 300 of her paintings were sold through three exhibitions for a whopping Rs 9 crore! It was rumoured that one of the paintings was bought by Saradha chief for an astronomical Rs 1.2 crore. The CBI believes that Mamata Banerjee would have known that her paintings were being bought with depositors’ money even if a quid pro quo with the scamsters (like Sen and Rose Valley’s ) cannot be established.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had sent multiple alerts between 2011 and 2013 to the Bengal Chief Minister about allegations of cheating and fraud emanating from Bengal against the chit fund companies like Saradha and Rose Valley. The CBI chargesheet is likely to mention that despite these alerts, and with full knowledge of the ponzi scam going on in the state, the scamsters were allowed a free rein, patronised by the ruling Trinamool Congress, and allowed to buy Banerjee’s paintings. The money from the sale of these paintings, feels the CBI, is ‘proceeds of a crime’. The CBI has also collected a lot of evidence that reportedly proves the close links between senior Trinamool leaders and the scamsters.
The CBI, which had to the apex court in July this year that the Bengal Police was obstructing its probe into the chit fund scam, had also in August this year to four top state police officers, including Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar who had earlier to then CBI chief Alok Verma against the agency’s officer heading the probe. Only one of the four officers have before the CBI, which is learnt to be mulling the option of approaching the Supreme Court for a directive to the Bengal police to cooperate in the probe and respond positively to summons issued by the CBI.
Kumar was heading the state police investigations into the probe, and is widely deemed to be close to Mamata Banerjee. He is alleged to have destroyed key evidence that would have linked the top Trinamool leadership to the scamsters like Sen and Kundu. A senior CBI officer said that such evidence, including a pen drive and documents that were seized from Sudipta Sen’s office did not figure in the police’s seizure list. The CBI reportedly wants to question Kumar about this missing evidence. Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya had earlier allegations of destroying evidence against Rajeev Kumar.
Sensing that the noose around the necks of many of her colleagues could be tightening, the Bengal Chief Minister has started alleging that the BJP government at the Centre is using the CBI against her party. She had, in mid-November, to the CBI to conduct investigations in Bengal. The Bengal government has been accused many times in the past for creating hurdles in the way of speedy investigations by the CBI.
While the Trinamool chief will, expectedly, cry hoarse and foul over the accelerated pace of investigations by the CBI - a move that will involve questioning of many Trinamool leaders as well as some police officers deemed close to her - the state government is likely to initiate tit-for-tat moves against state BJP leaders. “We apprehend that a cornered Mamata Banerjee will try to divert attention by getting the police to lodge false cases against out party functionaries and leaders. Many false cases ranging from cheating, blocking highways, issuing threats and even possession of drugs have been filed against our functionaries by the state police at the behest of the Trinamool. We expect a spurt in more such false cases being filed against us. But we are not afraid and will fight them legally. The Trinamool cannot subdue us by lodging false cases against us,” said state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.
The quickened pace of investigations by the CBI in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls is set to rile the Trinamool, which is bound to retaliate against the BJP by using the state police. And the political temperature over this is set to rise many notches in the coming weeks and months.
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