By Rajnish Singh
New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) In the midst of the stand off between the West Bengal government and the Centre, the CBI is focusing on recovering data from five specific mobile phones and a laptop that are among the other “crucial evidence” said to have been procured by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of West Bengal Police that was headed by Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar.
Sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) claimed that these electronic gadgets were recovered from the prime accused linked to the scam that hold the “key evidence” to connecting the scam to “influential persons” in West Bengal and outside.
A CBI official, close to the investigation, said the mobile phones and the laptop data were stored and procured by the SIT headed by Rajeev Kumar whom the federal agency want to question aimed at locating several other “crucial evidence” in the Saradha scam that was initially estimated at Rs 600 crore and then pegged at around Rs 3,500 crore.
The investigation in the case so far has revealed that these gadgets were later given back to the accused in the case with a “political background” and the data was not handed over to the CBI when it took over the case from the West Bengal Police, said the official, requesting anonymity.
He said a “blue book” prepared by the SIT is also a part of the significant documents linked to the chit fund scam in which the CBI is seeking to unearth police, political and administrative nexus involving the “larger conspiracy”.
Among other evidence the agency is looking for are the call detail records (CDRs) of the prime and potential persons, said the official, adding the CDRs which Kumar provided to the CBI so far were tampered with and doctored and the material evidences had been destroyed.
The CBI on Tuesday also informed the Supreme Court that Kumar destroyed, destructed and tampered with material evidence in the form of CDRs.
“Entire material gathered during the initial and crucial stage of investigation done by the SIT under Kumar was not shared with the CBI which was entrusted with the investigation of the scam by the Supreme Court on May 9, 2014,” said another CBI official.
Kolkata-based CBI Joint Director Pankaj Srivastav has also said that “crucial evidence was not handed over to the CBI by the Kolkata SIT”. “The evidence was either destroyed… We want to take the investigation further. We are looking into the larger conspiracy connected to the chit fund scams.”
The Saradha scam suddenly came back into the limelight after a team of the central probe agency reached Kumar’s residence to question him in connection with the case, triggering a political war between the West Bengal government and the Centre.
The CBI has questioned former Railway Minister and ex-Trinamool Congress vice-president Mukul Roy and many more politicians in the scandal that stemmed from the collapse of the ponzi scheme run by the Saradha Group, a consortium of over 200 private companies that were believed to be running collective investment schemes, popularly but incorrectly referred to as chit funds.
Small depositors, estimated around 1.7 million, from West Bengal, Assam and Odisha lost their money as the firm collapsed in April 2013.
The agency claimed that companies like Saradha, Rose Valley and Tower Group had given huge contributions to the Trinamool Congress.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])