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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Balance sheet blank after 2010

Balance sheet blank after 2010

Calcutta, April 26: Police officers investigating the Saradha crisis are interrogating the chief financial officer of the group and four employees in the accounts department to assess the extent of the default.

During the probe in the past four days, the officers have not been able to ascertain the amount of deposits the Saradha companies had mobilised since group chief Sudipta Sen ventured into the business in 2008.

"The entire system of managing the group's finances was murky and hazy. Audited balance sheets of the companies except Saradha Tours and Travels are available only till 2010-11. We need to speak to the employees to learn more about the group's finances," an officer said, adding that more than 100 employees in the accounts and banking departments of Saradha could be interrogated.

"We have already called some of these officials and asked them to furnish details. We have asked the CFO (chief financial officer) to draw up a balance sheet. We have also ensured that none of the agents can use the software Web Spiders to carry out financial transactions," the officer said.

The Saradha Realty balance sheet for the year ending March 2011 reveals the company had collected advances of Rs 78 crore in the name of booking properties. The company had also taken advances to the tune of another Rs 79 crore but did not mention the purpose.

According to the 2012 balance sheet of Saradha Tours and Travels, the other group company raising deposits, it had taken advances of Rs 17 crore from customers.

"This is nothing but fraud. A company with around 2.84 lakh deposit-collection agents cannot have assets of such a paltry sum," said a senior investigating officer from the Bidhannagar commissionerate.

"We have learnt that there are thousands of Saradha-run schemes that would have matured in 2026. So it is difficult to get to the bottom of it (the default amount)," the officer said.

The balance sheet figures have led the cops to suspect that Sen and his associates were siphoning off money collected from depositors across Bengal.

"There was no clarity in the financial dealings of the company even though the CFO was paid a monthly salary of Rs 3 lakh," said another officer who is looking into the financial aspects of the probe.

The police have decided to freeze 150 accounts of the Saradha Group in both nationalised and private banks. They have sought transaction details from the group's companies.

"It's not merely about statement of accounts. We want to know how money reached these accounts and how much was withdrawn," said Arnab Ghosh, the detective department chief of the commissionerate.

As part of the probe, the police are focusing on six companies — Saradha Tours and Travels, Saradha Realty, Saradha Construction, Debkripa Byapar Private Limited, Saradha Bengal Media Private Limited and Saradha Printing and Publication Limited.

The police have learnt that the six companies have 294 offices in Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Jharkhand and Delhi.

According to sleuths, Saradha Tours and Travels would lure investors with the promise of trips. Most investments were of less than Rs 1 lakh.

"For example, a person investing Rs 15,000 would be promised a trip to Goa for eight days and seven nights. But most of the investors were never taken to these trips. Instead, they were paid back Rs 18,000 after a year. The promise of trips was just a ploy to raise money by bypassing regulators," an officer said.

Those investing over a lakh in Saradha Realty and Saradha Construction were promised land, the police said. "We have found documents to suggest that plots in Barrackpore, Bankura's Bishnupur, off Kalyani Highway and along NH34 in Barasat, Malda, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar were shown to investors," the officer said.

Saradha chief Sen has told interrogators that a section of agents had cheated him by collecting money from depositors but not mentioning them in the companies' accounts. Some of the agents made close to Rs 10 lakh a month through such fraudulent practices, the police have found.

"The agents cashed in on shady accounting practices of the companies," the officer said.

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