Ponzi scam: CBI sent 20 notices in 2017-18 for questioning SIT members

Govt curtails tenure of two senior IPS officers in CBI
Govt curtails tenure of two senior IPS officers in CBI

The CBI sent as many as 20 notices for examination members of a Special Investigation Team, including Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, before knocking on his doors on Sunday evening which spiralled into an unprecedented tussle between the two agencies, officials said Monday.

The 20 notices were sent by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) between September 2017 and December 2018.

The CBI was handed over the probe by the Supreme Court in 2014 but the agency was allegedly finding it difficult to get all the documents and evidence collected by the special investigation team of West Bengal, which had initiated the probe against the Saradha Group, an official said.

CGO complex, where CBI office is located in Kolkata
CGO complex, where CBI office is located in Kolkata

The agency started calling members of the SIT in 2017 to record their statements to get insights into their probe and seek information about the evidence and records collected by them during their searches on Saradha Group of companies and other premises which was the first company to face action in ponzi scam case.

It shot off 20 notices between September 15, 2017 and December 8, 2018 seeking presence of SIT officials, including its head Kumar, but in most cases the officials did not turn up on one pretext or another, the official said.

CBI sent 20 notices in 2017-18 for questioning SIT members
CBI sent 20 notices in 2017-18 for questioning SIT members

Shankar Bhattacharyya, an inspector at Bidhan Nagar police commissionerate, was sent a notice on September 15, 2017, another senior official said requesting anonymity.

Three days later the agency called Dilip Hazra, also an inspector at the police station, and issued a notice to Rajeev Kumar to appear for questioning on the same day.

Kumar cited engagement in law and order duties during the ongoing festive season to skip the call, the official said.

It was followed by another notice on October 23, 2017 but he responded with same excuse.

The Kolkata Police commissioner was again called through a notice dated December 8, 2018 but he “proposed” that queries can be sent to him which will be answered or a joint meeting of SIT members and the CBI can be convened.

The agency had written to the DGP West Bengal on August 18, 2018 seeking details of convenient place where Kumar, Special IG Vineet Kumar Goyal, Kolkata JCP (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh could be interviewed between August 21, 2018 and August 25, 2018, another official said.

The response from West Bengal Police on August 20, 2018 suggested that a meeting with members of the SIT, its investigation officers with the CBI can be convened but the CBI rejected the proposal of joint meeting calling it “unviable”, the official said.

The police kept repeating these proposals which were being rejected by the CBI as the agency wanted a one-to-one examination of the SIT members.

On June 27, 2018, the CBI wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Police of same jurisdiction asking him to advice the Investigation Officers of the case to appear in the CBI office on July 3.

Retired inspector Debabrata Banerjee claimed that he was unable to move out due to age-related issues and sought a questionnaire, he official said.

On July 3, the agency had sent another notice to him asking him to appear on July 9 but he cited the demise of his brother four days ago to skip the session. He said he could be examined on September 18, the officials said.

The CBI asked Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bidhan Nagar, on July 10 to ensure that investigation officers of 10 ponzi scam cases are sent to its office on July 16 for questioning but it was told that they have either retired or transferred and should be approached directly, they said.

The police also did not provide place of transfer, addresses and phone numbers of these officers sought by the CBI on July 17, they claimed.

After Rajeev Kumar refused to appear for questioning, a team of CBI had reached his residence Sunday evening at 5.45 PM where it was allegedly “manhandled” by guards, the officials said. PTI