Kolkata was left in a state of unprecedented crisis on Sunday, 3 February, when a group of 40 CBI officials allegedly turned up outside the house of Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, in connection with the agency’s probe into the Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi scams, and were detained by the local cops.
Kumar was reportedly heading the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was looking into both of these scams, before the case was transferred to the CBI in 2014 on the Supreme Court’s orders.
Hours after the drama in Kolkata started unfolding, the interim CBI chief Nageshwar Rao said there was evidence against Kumar and that the he had been “instrumental in causing destruction of this evidence and obstructing justice".
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Following the row, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stepped in and declared a 'Save the Constitution' dharna, to protest against what she called an attack from the BJP and also defended Kumar, calling him the “best in the world”.
Who is Rajeev Kumar?
Rajeev Kumar, who had reportedly ignored CBI summons as per its investigations into the ponzi scam and who had notably skipped a meeting with the full bench of the Election Commission last week, was selected as Kolkata Police Commissioner in, 2016 in place of Surajit Kar Purakayastha, who was then promoted to the CID department, The Indian Express reported.
A 1989-batch IPS officer of West Bengal, had worked as the Commissioner of Police, Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate and had also been assigned the role of Special Task Force (STF) chief under Kolkata Police before this, the report added.
After news of the Saradha and Rose Valley scams surfaced in 2013, Mamata Banerjee had ordered for the setting up of the SIT to look into the scams, and Kumar, who she is allegedly close to, was made in-charge of the same. Back then, the team had been asked to help in the investigations, after several documents related to the scams had allegedly gone missing.
Cases Leading to CBI Questioning of Kumar
Despite the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC party defending Kumar and criticizing the CBI and on a larger scale- the BJP- for alleging foul play on Kumar’s end, Interim CBI chief Nageshwar Rao maintained that Kumar had been “instrumental in causing destruction of this evidence and obstructing justice".
He further claimed that the SIT under Kumar had taken charge of all the evidence and seized all the documents.
" “They have not been cooperating with us in handing over all the documents and a lot of evidence has been destroyed or caused to disappear.”" - Interim CBI chief Nageshwar Rao to ANI
Rao was referring to the Saradha Scam and Rose Valley Scam that had made headlines in 2013, the investigations for which was passed on to the CBI in 2014 on the Supreme Court’s orders. However, as mentioned clearly in the Supreme Court judgement dated 9 May, 2014, which was accessed by The Quint:
“...the State Police Agencies currently investigating the cases shall provide the fullest cooperation to the CBI including assistance in terms of men and material to enable the latter to conduct and complete the investigation expeditiously.”
The Saradha chit-fund scam was a major financial scam that was caused by the collapse of a Ponzi scheme that was run by Kolkata-based Saradha Group, which included over 200 private companies that claimed to be running collective investment schemes.
The schemes were such: an investor could invest a minimum of Rs 100, with no maximum upper limit. To this, Saradha promised returns from 15 percent to 50 percent, which was an extremely attractive feat for investors, NDTV reported.
Using this premise, the group collected around Rs 1200 crore from about 1.7 million depositors, before it finally collapsed in April 2013, the report added. It also promised fancy holidays and other luxury schemes. However, as it turned out, Saradha did not deliver on its promises and instead gave the money it had collected from one depositor to another, to pay him or her off.
It is important to mention here that Saradha had procured massive TMC help at the time, with TMC MP Kunal Ghosh even heading its media division and MP Satabdi Roy featuring in its promotional material, the report added.
After the collapse of the ponzi scheme, the West Bengal government asked for the set up of an inquiry commission to investigate the collapse, which was then given charge to Rajeev Kumar. In an effort to derive herself off some of the flak directed her way, Mamata Banerjee had announced a fund of Rs 5 billion, in an attempt to ensure that low-income investors were not bankrupted.
Rose Valley Scam:
Amounting to Rs 60,000 crore. the Rose Valley scam is believed to be one of the biggest ponzi frauds in India. Set up in the 1990s, the various entities affiliated with the group- Rose Valley Real Estates and Constructions and Rose Valley Hotels and Entertainment, had promised incredible schemes for its investors- where they were given the choice of choosing between a holiday package or "a return on the investment with annualised interest", News18 reported.
In 2012, after news of Saradha, the Supreme Court ordered the probe of all companies involved in raising funds from small depositors. Investigations found that Rose Valley, as per the ED estimates, had collected up to Rs 15,000 crore from depositors across India, in West Bengal, Assam and Bihar, but the all India small depositors association claimed that the actual amount was anout Rs 40,000 crore, the report added.
The allegations concerning the ponzi scheme ran that huge amounts of this collected money were being siphoned off and transferred to other accounts, instead of the group keeping to the its promises on returns as per the investments. The Enforcement Directorate also claimed that a major portion of the money was used to bribe politicians, so that the scheme could run without interruptions. Once all of this came to light, the SIT under Kumar was put to task- bringing us back to the current crisis of the CBI now claiming that the former had “destroyed evidence” relating to scams.
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