New Delhi/Kolkata/Guwahati, Aug 28 IANS | 4 months ago

Probing the multi-crore rupee Saradha scam, the CBI Thursday raided 22 locations in West Bengal and Assam, including the residences of two former Assam ministers and a retired police chief and the offices of Kolkata businessman Sandhir Agarwal.

The searches by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took place at seven locations in Kolkata, 14 in Assam (12 in Guwahati and two in Dhubri) and one in Mumbai, including the residence of Assam's former education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and former Assam director general of police (DGP) Shankar Baruah, an official said in New Delhi.

The other residences raided in Assam included that of Congress legislator and former minister Anjan Dutta and singer Sadananda Gogoi.

In Kolkata, searches took place at the residences of former personal assistant to a Bengal minister, Bapi Karim and former IPS officer Deben Biswas, the official said.

In Kolkata, CBI sleuths also searched the residence of a former East Bengal Football Club official and questioned his widow. Another club official, Debabrata Sarkar, has already been arrested.

Now in CBI custody, Kolkata businessman Agarwal, accused of extorting crores of rupees from Saradha promoter and scam kingpin Sudipta Sen, was arrested Aug 24.

Meanwhile, Kolkata-based entrepreneur and chairman of the now defunct Xenitis Group, Santanu Ghosh arrived at the CBI office in Kolkata for questioning for the second consecutive day.

Ghosh along with Assam-based businessman Rajesh Bajaj was interrogated by the agency Wednesday.

Ghosh, said to have had several business transactions with the tainted group, was arrested in June by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

He was granted bail Aug 25 by a city court after the Enforcement Directorate failed to submit a charge sheet.

A host of high profile names, including Bengal minister Shyamapada Mukherjee, actress and filmmaker Aparna Sen, Trinamool parliamentarian Ahmed Hassan Imran and former IPS officer Rajat Majumdar have been grilled by the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate.

The CBI has till now registered 48 cases, including four in West Bengal and 44 in Odisha, in the alleged chit fund scam on the directions of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had handed over the 10,000 crore Saradha chit fund scam case to the CBI in May 2014 and asked the state governments to provide all logistical help to the agency.

In Guwahati, CBI teams also raided the office of News Live TV channel which is owned by Himanta Biswa Sarma's wife. Sarma had resigned from Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's cabinet last month.

Both Sarma and his wife were not available during the raids and also not available for comments.

Sadananda Gogoi's house in Guwahati was also raided. The singer-turned-filmmaker is known to have close links with the former health minister.

Assam's former transport minister Anjan Dutta is a sitting legislator and owns an Assamese daily that had tied up with the Saradha group for a brief period.

Dutta later told journalists that he was not aware of any raids at his house as he was out since morning.

Meanwhile, CBI officials took former DGP Baruah to a State Bank of India branch near his house and examined his bank accounts. Baruah refused to comment.

The CBI had earlier raided the house of Manoranjana Singh, owner of Guwahati-based news channel Frontier TV and the office of the now defunct channel.

In Dhubri, the CBI raided two locations, including a now defunct biscuit factory. The factory was owned by the Saradha group and was inaugurated by former minister Sarma.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Thursday said that it was his government which had handed over 15 chit fund cases to the CBI, including that of Saradha, in 2013, much before the Supreme Court entrusted the investigating agency the task to probe the scam.

(Posted on 29-08-2014)

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