ED prepares list of biggies on Saradha payroll

Names largely sourced from letter Sudipto Sen wrote to CBI

ED prepares list of biggies on Saradha payroll

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), probing the money trail in the multi-crore Saradha scam, is reported to have prepared a list of “influential persons” who have received pay-offs from the tainted group’s chairman Sudipto Sen.

While the list includes names of senior Trinamool Congress ministers and elected representatives, it also has names of former ministers, MPs and MLAs, not just from West Bengal but also from Assam.

According to sources, ED’s list is largely sourced from a letter Sen had written to the CBI days before his arrest in April 2013. While he provided a detailed list of payments made to several prominent persons, a number of other names have come up in the course of ED’s investigation. From film star Mithun Chakraborty to former Union minister Matang Sinh from Assam, the list has taken the shape of an explosive material, sources said.

While the ED has till date questioned a number of people, some other “influential persons” are likely to be grilled soon. Most of them have taken money with the promise of helping Sen to advance his business of raising money from an unsuspecting public, showcasing names and faces of celebrities and prominent politicians. “A few other people will be summoned for questioning,” an official said.

Officials said the agency has already questioned Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP and businessman, Srinjoy Bose, who the CBI arrested in November 2014. Sen claimed in his letter to have paid him around Rs 12 crore for his Bengali newspaper, Sangbad Pratidin. He also claimed paying Bose and the newspaper’s executive editor Kunal Ghosh, another Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP. Ghosh was also arrested by CBI last year for his role in advancing Saradha’s business as CEO of the group’s media ventures, consisting of a number of newspapers and TV channels.

Ghosh helped Sen to set up Bengali news channel, Channel 10, in collaboration with Bose’s newspaper, where he was the executive editor. Sen claimed to have paid Bose Rs 60 lakh per month for the collaboration, which lasted for around 18 months. While Ghosh was paid a monthly salary of Rs 15 lakh as the CEO, both Bose and Ghosh asked for several other payments during this period on various pretexts, Sen claimed in his letter.

Monthly payments of Rs 20 lakh were also made to Mithun, who was appointed the group’s brand ambassador on Ghosh’s insistence, even though the film star participated in just one talk show for Channel 10. Bose was paid an additional sum of Rs 20 crore for providing direct access to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Sen claimed.

Others like prominent painter Suvaprasanna received Rs 6.5 crore and Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Arpita Ghosh received Rs 85 lakh to set up a women-centric Bengali TV channel, much of which have remained unaccounted for. Sen also paid former Prasar Bharti chief Ratikanta Basu Rs 19 crore for his company Broadcast Worldwide, which included a bouquet of TV channels and radio stations, besides another payment of Rs 30 crore. The price paid was much above the market rate, ED officials believe.

Sen also paid Sinh and his now-estranged wife Manoranjana Rs 42 crore and Rs 26 crore to set up media companies in Assam. He claimed to have paid between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 5 crore to a number of prominent journalists from Kolkata, Assam and Delhi.

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