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Saradha case: West Bengal minister Madan Mitra arrested by CBI

Kolkata(PTI): The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday arrested West Bengal’s transport minister Madan Mitra for his alleged links with the now defunct Saradha Group, which until early last year ran Ponzi schemes in eastern India.

Saradha case: West Bengal minister Madan Mitra arrested by CBI

Saradha case: West Bengal minister Madan Mitra arrested by CBI
Mitra, a leader of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, was often seen at various events organized by the now defunct Saradha Group. Photo: Hindustan Times

Officials of the federal investigating agency said Mitra was arrested on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation of funds from the Saradha Group. These officials didn’t want to be identified. Mitra’s arrest followed hours of interrogation on Friday. He is the first minister in West Bengal to be arrested for the scam.

For weeks, he refused to turn up for interrogation citing health issues. CBI also arrested Naresh Bhalotia, an erstwhile legal adviser to the Saradha Group. Two key leaders of the Trinamool Congress party, Subrata Mukherjee and Partha Chatterjee, protested Mitra’s arrest, saying it was politically motivated. Mukherjee, a cabinet minister in the state, said the Trinamool Congress will deal with the move “politically”. CBI had previously taken Kunal Ghosh and Srinjoy Bose, representatives of the Trinamool Congress in the Rajya Sabha, into custody, but they were arrested only after several days of interrogation, Mukherjee said.

The fact that Mitra was detained on Friday only after few hours of interrogation shows his arrest was premeditated, alleged Mukherjee. The Saradha Group went bust in early 2013 when it failed to repay depositors. Its founder and chairman Sudipta Sen fled Kolkata but was hauled back to the city within days by the local police. Mitra is the third Trinamool Congress leader to be arrested in connection with the case after Ghosh and Bose. Ghosh’s judicial custody ended on Friday but has been extended till 22 December. Ghosh attempted suicide while in custody by swallowing sleeping pills.

He has hinted at the involvement of several Trinamool leaders in the activities of the Saradha Group. Ghosh was suspended by his party before his arrest. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ordered CBI to take charge of the probe for the provincial government’s inability to unearth where the money collected under the Ponzi schemes had gone. The Saradha Group is estimated to have collected at least Rs.2,500 crore from millions of investors, mostly in West Bengal.

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