The Sunday tussle between the Kolkata Police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has turned into a high voltage drama with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launching a dharna in the name of ‘Save the Constitution’ accompanied by Trinamool Congress leaders and senior police officials, including Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar at Kolkata’s Metro Channel.
On February 3, when a team of CBI officers arrived at Kumar’s resident to question him as part of their investigation in the multi crore Ponzi schemes - Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams, Kolkata Police detained the CBI members for a brief period and were later released. While this tussle has raised questions of transgression of jurisdiction of the agencies, various opposition parties including Congress took the side of TMC, criticising the BJP-led central government for downgrading the CBI to a mere “political tool”.
While Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are among the political parties which came out in support of the West Bengal CM, the CP(I)M general secretary has termed the developments as “drama” orchestrated by both TMC and BJP.
“Corruption cases against the TMC government in chit fund scams have been public for years but the Modi government chose to stay quiet as the top mastermind of the scam joined BJP. It does a drama to act now, after 5 years, and TMC leadership responds by staging a drama to protect it’s corrupt," Yechury tweeted.
Incidentally, February 3 was the last day of CBI’s interim director M Nageswara Rao who is now replaced by Rishi Kumar Shukla.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has said that it will hear the CBI’s petition accusing West Bengal government of its impending investigation tomorrow (February 5). CBI alleged that it has enough evidence against Rajeev Kumar and that he has not been cooperating with their investigation in the chit fund scams cases. Interestingly, Kumar had headed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe connected to Saradha and Rose valley ponzi scams before the Supreme Court transferred the cases to the CBI in 2014.
Also Read: CBI-TMC Face-Off: SC Puts Off Hearing to Tuesday
“PM Modi is destroying institutions in the country. How can CBI officials come to Kolkata police chief’s residence without a warrant? I am proud of my police force. Kolkata police chief is among the best,” Banerjee told media persons at the protest site. The CM also questioned why Assam Deputy Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was left untouched whose name had also cropped up in the Sarada case. “I have enough evidence against the Assam deputy chief minister. I dare Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to have him arrested. The CBI has already questioned him before," Mamata was quoted as saying.
Saradha chit fund scam came to limelight in April 2013. Saradha Company had run a set of Ponzi schemes and had mopped off over Rs. 4,000 crore by cheating lakhs of its investors. Sudipta Sen, the disgraced chairman and managing director of the Saradha group, had alleged the role of TMC leaders Kunal Ghosh and Srinjay Bose, and Congress leader Matang Singh in the multi crore scam. Sen has been under judicial custody since then.
Mukul Roy, former TMC leader and one of the key accused in the Saradha Scam joined the BJP in 2017.
Also Read: The Political Economy of Shadow Finance in West Bengal
Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam
Months after the Saradha Scam created political ripples in West Bengal and eastern states, another similar Ponzi scheme turned out to be a scam. The Rose Valley Group has been accused of cheating its investors of about Rs. 17,000 crore in different states. The scam is being investigated both by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Gautam Kundu, head of the group who was arrested in March 2015, had allegedly violated RBI guidelines and other related financial fraud control acts.
In January 2017, when CBI arrested a TMC leader and MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam, Mamata Banerjee had termed it as the result of “politically vindictive attitude of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah”.
While the CBI delayed its investigation in the crucial scams which looted millions of people, the timing it chose to question the police commissioner has given the West Bengal CM to question the motive of the Centre. However, the consequent developments also put Mamata Banerjee’s protest under question.