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Multi-agency Probe Into Chit Funds Announced

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In a multi-agency crackdown against alleged duping of public investors through Ponzi schemes, the government on Saturday, 27 April 2013, said the entities suspected to be engaged in such activities are being probed by Sebi, RBI and the Corporate Affairs Ministry, among others.

Besides, the Income Tax Department has also initiated an investigation of Saradha group and the Enforcement Directorate has also registered a case of suspected money laundering activities against this Kolkata-based group and others including its chief Sudipta Sen, the Finance Ministry said.

Talking to reporters in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed on curbing unauthorised chit fund activities like the one involving Saradha Group in West Bengal.

"The unauthorised collection of deposits in exchange for the promise that exorbitant rate of return will be given, this is something which has to be curbed," said Singh.

Detailing the steps being taken against alleged illegal raising of funds by so-called chit fund companies in West Bengal and the Eastern region, the Ministry said various central government agencies have taken action on this front.

"Media reports in the past few days have highlighted concerns regarding alleged illegal raising of deposits, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, in Eastern India and duping of the gullible public.

Read Also: SFIO To Probe 3 More WB Groups

"Promoters of such companies are allegedly siphoning the monies collected and are using a sales network comprising local persons who are offered hefty commissions, in a manner similar to Ponzi schemes," it said.

Meanwhile, Trinamul MP Kunal Ghosh on 26 April offered to resign from the Rajya Sabha if investigations revealed that he was associated with the money market operations of the Saradha Group.

Ghosh, who has been saying he had no connection with the default crisis, communicated his message to Mamata Banerjee in a five-and-a-half-page letter hand-written in Bengali.

“If you instruct, I am ready to resign from the Rajya Sabha any time. Your directive is the last word for me,” Ghosh wrote in the letter, which was uploaded on the Trinamul website late tonight.

Some sources in Trinamul said a criminal case lodged against Ghosh in Park Street police station by a section of employees of Channel 10, a Saradha Group company, last night may have forced the hand of the MP.

The charges filed against Ghosh and six other officials of the news channel — ranging from criminal breach of trust to cheating — carry a maximum punishment of seven years in jail.

Of the six charges, two are non-bailable — which means Ghosh can be granted bail only by a court and not by the police station itself. Going by the rulebook, the non-bailable sections mean an accused cannot escape arrest unless he secures anticipatory bail.

Ponzi Schemes Of Bengal
Ponzi schemes are used for activities involving collection of money from a large number of public investors with a promise of huge returns, which are typically paid from the deposits taken from new investors. The old investors and agents get hefty commissions for bringing in new investors.

"The matter is under examination by Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and Reserve Bank of India (RBI)," the Ministry said.

Sebi has initiated action against several companies which have come to its notice for violation of one or more of its regulations. In over 59 cases in the eastern region, Sebi has initiated prosecution cases in Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) related matters in various courts.

The Ministry said Department of Financial Services (DFS) had also written to all the Chief Secretaries of State Governments in July 2012 requesting the states to strengthen the coordination mechanism between their regulatory institutions like the Economic Offences Wing of the State Police and the central agencies such as RBI, SEBI, Registrar of companies, Revenue Department and Enforcement Directorate.

"The RBI has also been addressed in this regard in February 2013 and the matter is currently under examination by them," it added.

Listing out the steps taken by MCA, it said the Ministry has ordered inspection of the books of accounts and other records of 31 companies. Investigations were also ordered in some matters by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) in July and November 2012.

In the matter of 42 companies, Registrar of Companies, West Bengal has issued notices calling for information and explanations relating to collection of monies by those firms.

These orders have been issued by the MCA primarily to ascertain if these companies are violating the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 and to decide the future course of action.

Listing the action taken with regard to Saradha Realty India Ltd, the Ministry said Sebi passed an order on April 23 directing the company to wind-up its existing collective investment schemes and refund the money collected under the schemes with returns which are due to the investors as per the terms of offer, within a period of three months.

Failing this, prosecution proceedings would be pursued by Sebi against the company. Income Tax Department has also initiated investigation of Saradha Group from the perspective of violation of taxation laws.

Based on an information received from Assam Police, Guwahati on registration of 4 FIRs against Sudipta Sen and others, the Enforcement Directorate also on April 25 registered a case under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, against Saradha Realty India Ltd and others, including Sudipta Sen.