KOLKATA: With the arrest of Rose Valley managing director Shibamoy Dutta, CBI sleuths say they may finally make certain inroads into how funds were siphoned off from the Ponzi firm.
Based on Dutta's interrogation, CBI now plans to question group chairman Gautam Kundu again as they feel he was trying to "suppress information".
On a day Dutta and another accused director, Ashok Kumar Saha, were taken to Bhubaneswar by CBI, sources in Delhi indicated that a gold retailing firm — from which Kundu had started distancing himself recently — is under scanner for stashing the ill-gotten money.
The CBI investigation though has surprised Kundu's lawyers who have questioned whether CBI has the legitimacy to probe the money laundering angle, which falls under the domain of Enforcement Directorate.
"Kundu needs immediate medical attention, but CBI had been opposing any move to get him admitted at a hospital. Is in spite of the fact that both Kundu and Dutta are co-operating with them, the sleuths are trying to keep them behind bars. Now they want to probe an alleged money laundering that essentially lies in the domain of the ED. We will surely attract the attention of the court in this matter," said a lawyer representing the firm.
At the centre of the argument is the sudden CBI interest in Rose Valley's "long term loans" to a Gold chain. The loan amount stood at an astounding Rs 102.53 crore according to its annual report in 2013-14. However, neither Kundu nor Rose Valley is shown to have any major stake in it. In March 2014 — its first full year of operation — the gold company generated Rs 29.6 crore in revenue and reported a pre-tax loss of Rs 27.1 crore. Thanks to a deferred tax asset of Rs 8.39 crore, the firm reported an accumulated loss of Rs 18.86 crore at the end of March 2014. Similarly, nearly six media outlets, including regional newspapers and channels, are under scrutiny.
The CBI sleuths have also narrowed down their search to five real estate developers who, the central agency claims, were direct beneficiaries of Rose Valley. Sources said proxy investors were used to channel out this money between 2013 and 2014.
"Rose Valley had business investments. It was not like Saradha. There should be no reason why we cannot get to the bottom of this money empire," an investigator said, adding that the two firms that Dutta specifically mentioned during questioning are Rose Valley Hotels and Entertainment Limited and Real Estate and Landbank India Limited.
"Around 1,000 acres had been distributed among 7.5 lakh investors. This is the exact point on which we are trying to gather more evidences," he said.
The group, CBI said, had bought properties across Andamans, Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Goa and New Delhi. Kundu himself has 235 acres across five states. Some 23-odd hotels across the country, including luxury properties in Jaipur, Jalpaiguri, East Midnapore, Siliguri and Kolkata, are also owned by Rose Valley. It has seven premium residencies in Kolkata, a 6,000sqft villa in Ranchi and a gold and diamond jewellery mall. The group also has 880 branches in West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Punjab, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.