Kolkata, Dec 12 (IANS) The CBI Friday arrested West Bengal Transport and Sports Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Madan Mitra in connection with the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam.
“Mitra has been arrested on prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation as well as deriving undue financial benefits from the Saradha group,” Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Kanchan Prasad told IANS.
Mitra’s arrest, coming after months of speculation that he could be in trouble with regard to the scam, came after many hours of grilling spread over two sessions by CBI sleuths at the agency office here.
The 57-year-old minister, who had headed the Saradha employees’ union, evaded the CBI questioning for some time citing health grounds.
He was even hospitalised when he complained of illness. He first got admitted in a nursing home and later shifted to the government-run SSKM Hospital where he was said to have complained of a “panic attack”.
Upon his discharge from the hospital Nov 26, Mitra approached the CBI and expressed his desire to appear for the questioning.
Six days back, Mitra admitted he was feeling “tensed” in facing the grilling.
“I can’t deny that I am suffering from tension in facing questioning by the CBI. That’s because I need to prepare myself to reply to their questions which will help them get to the bottom of the matter,” Mitra said Dec 6.
While he has repeatedly denied allegations of his involvement in the scam, Mitra participated in several Saradha programmes and heaped praises on group chairman Sudipto Sen for creating job opportunities for thousands of people and assured help if the group faced any difficulties.
“Sudipto Sen knows how to make an ocean out of droplets. Work well, we are with you,” Mitra was captured on tape saying at one such programme.
He is the fourth Trinamool leader to be arrested after the scam came to light last year.
Suspended Trinamool leader and Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh was arrested by police in November last year, before the CBI nabbed parliamentarian Srinjoy Bose and party functionary Rajat Majumdar.
Ghosh had named many party colleagues, including Mitra, in a “tell-all” video that was made public after his arrest.
In the video, Ghosh gave details of how and what relations they shared with Sen and his company and asserted they can help the investigators.
Prior to his arrest and even afterwards, Ghosh has time and again called for Mitra’s questioning, claiming he knew how Sen, a small-time businessman, “made a meteoric rise”.
Mitra had earlier asserted that he would resign as minister if his link with the Saradha group was proved.
The CBI has already recorded the statement of Bapi Karim, Mitra’s former confidential assistant.
The CBI also arrested scam kingpin Sudipto Sen’s legal advisor Naresh Balodia.
“The CBI also arrested Naresh Balodia, legal advisor to Sudipto Sen and Saradha group, on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and diversion of funds in the same case,” CBI spokesperson Prasad added.