Kolkata: The CBI on 24 January arrested Shrikant Mohta in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam after the producer of Bengali films put up stiff resistance with the help of his private guards and the State police.
Mohta is alleged to have cheated the disgraced chit fund firm Rose Valley of Rs 25 crore, CBI sources said.
Mohta had been served three notices by the investigating agency regarding “acceptance of money from Rose Valley”. CBI sleuths raided his Kasba office after his evasive response to the previous notice.
Mohta had sent some documents to the CBI via his lawyer as the courier in response to the second notice summoning him for an interrogation. The agency raised questions, sources in the CBI said, about some irregularities they noticed in the documents. The film producer, instead of responding to the questions offered various excuses for not being able to appear before the CBI for clarifications.
After this, the CBI raided the office of Sri Venkatesh Films (SVF) on the 19th floor of the Kasba business complex.
First, some private guards hired by Mohta, CBI sources said, guarded their way. Then, he sought help from the local police station from where cops arrived. To the utter surprise of the investigating officers, the police stood in support of Mohta rather than aiding the legal process. A minor scuffle ensued.
Eventually, the CBI sleuths were able to make better sense prevail on the police who allowed them to question Mohta. When the film producer could not answer the agency’s questions satisfactorily, they took him to the CGO complex in Salt Lake and later arrested him.
The agency is probing both the Saradha and Rose Valley multi-crore scams. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing the Rose Valley scam, too.
SVF and Rose Valley: How one ‘cheat’ cheated another
Under an agreement signed between SVF and Rose Valley, the former was supposed to screen 70 films on television channels owned by the latter. Further, the CBI sources said, SVF was supposed to hand over the exclusive rights of 30 newly released films to Rose Valley. The chit fund company that ran some TV channels too complained that most of the films they received turned out to be old films made by SVF.
Mohta’s company SVF has produced many award-winning films like Chokher Bali, Memories in March, Autograph, Raincoat and Iti Mrinalini. The firm distributes most Bollywood and Hollywood movies in eastern India. Most of its films are remakes of Telugu hits.
Mohta and Mamata
Rose Valley chairman Gautam Kundu is currently in jail in a case of money laundering. He had earlier named TMC Members of Parliament Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Pal (a former actor) during different rounds of interrogation. Kundu’s statement led to the arrest of Pal in 2016 and Bandyopadhyay the next year.
While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bandyopadhyay fumed in protest after the arrests above, alleging these were instances of “vindictive politics” of the central government run by the BJP, she later made many a jaw drop with the assertion that it was not a big issue if Bandyopadhyay had made a few lakhs from the chit fund scam.
Based on the information available in the public domain now, the relationship between Mohta and Banerjee can be said to be indirect although the film producer and the chief minister have been spotted together on quite a few occasions.
Since several film actors who featured in films made by SVF are now TMC leaders, Mohta’s ‘association’ with the party ruling West Bengal is bad optics for Banerjee, especially in the election season. More so because TMC’s politicians used to actively canvass for investments on behalf of Rose Valley not only in Bengal but also in faraway Tripura. Rose Valley had offices in the neighbouring States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Assam as well. Overall, small investors, mostly from the middle class, have lost a whopping Rs 80,000 crore in the chit fund scam.
Actors Dipak Adhikary alias Dev, Chiranjit and Soham Chakraborty, actresses Satabdi Roy, Moon Moon Sen and Sandhya Roy, Naina Bandyopadhyay and Debashree Roy have all acted in SVF films and they are all members of the TMC: some as MPs, some as MLAs. Mithun Chakraborty was a Rajya Sabha MP of TMC until his resignation in early 2016.
Rose Valley not the only scam involving TMC
The ruling party of West Bengal has been embroiled in other financial scandals like the Saradha chit fund scam, the Narada bribery affair and apparent help extended to a fraud who duped a bank. Shibaji Panja, arrested by the CBI in March 2018 for cheating Canara Bank and other banks for a total sum of more than Rs 500 crore, was known to be close to chief minister Banerjee.
Sirf News has been covering news related to the Saradha scam since the arrests in connection with the scandal began.
The Narada sting operation managed to question the reputation of these personalities from the Bengal regime:
- Iqbal Ahmed, the then deputy mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and his brother Sultan Ahmed
- IPS officer SMH Mirza (Iqbal’s brother)
- Subrata Mukherjee, Cabinet minister of panchayats and rural development and water investigation & development
- Firhad Hakim, mayor of Kolkata since 2018 and minister for urban development and municipal affairs of West Bengal since 2011
- Aparupa Poddar, TMC’s Lok Sabha MP from Arambagh
- Madan Mitra, former TMC MLA who was elected from the Kamarhati constituency
- Mukul Roy Union railway minister in UPA government, former Rajya Sabha MP of the TMC, former national vice-president of Mamata Banerjee’s party; now in the BJP
- Saugata Roy, Lok Sabha of the TMC and former Union minister of state for urban development in the second UPA government
- Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, president of West Bengal Mahila Congress
- Prasun Bannerjee, retired international footballer, now TMC MP from Howrah Sadar
- Suvendu Adhikari, Bengal’s minister of transport and environment
- Sujay Bhadra alias Shantu, the then PA of Member of Parliament Abhishek Banerjee who is the nephew of Mamata Banerjee
- Karan Sharma, a close aide of Abhishek Banerjee
The politicians named above claimed that the people seen in the sting video accepting bribes were their lookalikes!