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Centre sets up special task force to probe chit fund cos

In the wake of an alleged fraud involving thousands of crores by Kolkata-based Saradha group, the Centre on Thursday ordered a SFIO probe into suspected misuse of the public money by various chit fund companies.

A special task force has been set up under the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) to carry out all investigations into such companies, the Corporate Affairs Ministry said on Thursday in a statement.

The decision was taken in view of a 'larger public interest involved in these cases, and concerns regarding misuse/laundering by such companies of the ill-gotten wealth and the possibility that the promoters of these companies may strip these companies,' the Ministry said.

The probe follows raging public protest against alleged duping of lakhs of investors by Saradha group through their chit-fund and other money-pooling activities in West Bengal. After being on the run for several days, Saradha Group chief Sudipta Sen was arrested in Kashmir valley two days ago and has been brought to Kolkata.

The Corporate Affairs Ministry said that the Task Force will also coordinate with other law enforcement agencies and regulators wherever required, in its investigations. Capital market regulator Sebi has already passed an order against one group entity, Saradha Realty India, asking it to wind up all collective investment schemes and refund the money collected from investors.

Besides, Sebi is also probing at least 10 other Saradha entities for raising funds without the regulator's approval.The Income Tax Department would also soon start its investigations into the activities of this group.Without specifically naming Saradha group, the Corporate Affairs Ministry said that it has 'taken note of the misuse by certain chit fund companies who have raised huge sums of money from the public at large.'


SARADHA GROUP HAS OVER 100 REGISTERED FIRMS


Saradha group, which is under fire for allegedly defrauding investors, has more than 100 firms registered with the RoC (Registrar of Companies) for businesses across sectors including real estate, automobile, education and entertainment.

Most of these companies are registered with the starting name as 'Saradha' while the group also has firms having different names.

Authorities are already looking into alleged ponzi or multi-level marketing schemes run by at least ten Saradha entities.

There are over 110 companies of Kolkata-based Saradha group under the same name and most of them have their registered address at Diamond Harbour Road in Kolkata, according to an analysis of data available with Corporate Affairs Ministry.

Majority of the group's firms are into real estate. These include Saradha Build-Dev, Saradha Realty India, Saradha Infra Properties, Saradha Township, Saradha Villa and Saradha Housing.

The group also has registered companies related to education, exports, automobiles, shopping mall, agro development, tour and travels, among others.

Other group companies include Saradha Education Enterprises, Saradha Exports, Saradha Automobiles India, Saradha Tours and Travels, Saradha Biogas Production and Saradha Printing & Publication.

The West Bengal government on Wednesday  has announced Rs 500 crore relief fund for duped investors.

The Ministry said the probe has been ordered in view of a larger public interest involved in the issues, although the state governments are the appropriate authorities for regulation of such chit fund companies and schemes under the Chit Fund Act, 1982.   


ED FILES MONEY LAUNDERING CASE AGAINST SARADHA

In further trouble for the chit fund scam-hit Saradha group of Kolkata, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money laundering case to probe the allegations of financial irregularities by numerous depositors against it.

The ED has registered a regular case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at its Guwahati office as the Assam police has registered an FIR against the group after allegations were made by investors that they were duped of their hard earned money.

The group and its investments are already being probed by a host of agencies like the Sebi, Income Tax Department and investigation units under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

'The agency is looking for proceeds of crime and the illegal funds which could have been laundered by the agents and promoters. The probe will be in close coordination with other investigative agencies and police,' a source said. The ED will also go through the FIRs registered by West Bengal police in this case.

The ED will also go through the business and personal transactions of the Saradha group Chairman Sudipta Sen and his close associates and the business dealings of the groups' various investment schemes.
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