Saradha scam: Mamata’s charges ‘frivolous’, says Himanta; Cong seeks his arrest

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CBI probe against Sarma yet to reach conclusive end: Cong

HT Bureau

Guwahati, Feb 5: Assam Finance minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday termed West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s charge that he was involved in the scam as “frivolous”, even as the state Youth Congress staged a protest in front of the CBI office in New Delhi, seeking his arrest.

Sarma said he had offered full cooperation in the ponzi scheme case as a witness. “The frivolous & baseless campaign by @MamataOfficialDidi against me is very painful. I am not fortunate enough like your police commissioner. I’ve joined the investigations and offered my full cooperation as a witness. And all this happened much much before I joined @BJP4India,” Sarma said in a tweet.

Apparently referring to Sarma, Banerjee had said on Monday that she had “enough evidence against the Assam deputy chief minister” in the case. She had also dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to get him arrested.

“West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has clearly stated that Sarma was involved in the chit fund scam,” Assam Congress spokesperson Pradyut Bordoloi told reporters here. “Apart from Saradha, the BJP had earlier accused Sarma of involvement in the Louis Berger scam. A number of arrests were made in Goa in connection with this scam, but no action was taken in Assam,” Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) spokesman and former minister Pradyut Bordoloi said here on Tuesday.

The CBI did not respond to questions on the dates the two have been questioned or have been searched in these cases. “The CBI is yet to take any action against Sarma and investigations against him have stopped after he joined the BJP,” Bordoloi, who was also Himanta’s cabinet collegue, said.

It seemed that Sarma was cleared of all the charges after he joined the saffron party, he added. “Himanta has a history of changing allegiance to save his skin. When TADA cases were slapped against him, he had left the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) to join the Congress. Later, he joined the BJP to save himself from the Saradha and Louis Berger cases,” he further said.

In July 2015, the Louis Berger International Inc., a New Jersey-based construction management company, had told a US court that it had bribed government officials in India to bag a contract for project management consultancy in a water supply project in Guwahati.

The then Congress government in Assam, led by Tarun Gogoi, had ordered a CID probe into the case, but the Gauhati High Court had later directed the CBI to inquire into the allegations.

A powerful minister in Tarun Gogoi Cabinet since 2001, Sarma had resigned from chief minister Tarun Gogoi cabinet revolting against him on various issues.

The CBI had also searched his premises in connection with the scam probe on August 28, 2014 along with former minister Anjan Dutta, who was recently questioned as well, and singer Sadananda Gogoi, who was arrested by CBI. Sarma joined the BJP on August 28, 2015 ahead of assembly elections in the state that year.

Training guns on Sarma, Assam Pradesh Youth Congress (APYC) activists staged a demonstration outside the CBI office in New Delhi, demanding his arrest for his alleged involvement in the Saradha chit fund scam and the Louise Berger case.

They shouted slogans, accusing the minister of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha group chairman Sudipta Sen for running his business in Assam.

One of the protesters said, “The Modi-led BJP government is misusing the CBI. Sarma switched to the BJP from the Congress when the heat of the Saradha scam probe was becoming too hot for him to handle.”

Another Youth Congress activist alleged that the CBI probe into the Saradha scam “slowed down considerably” after Sarma joined the BJP.

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