The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the West Bengal police communicated more than 20 times with regard to the questioning of around two dozen state police officials in connection with the agency’s probe into the 2013 chit fund scams, according to documents seen by HT.
But in most of the cases, the questioning of Bengal police officials is yet to take place. The Saradha and Rose Valley chit funds scams rocked West Bengal, Assam and Odisha in 2013.
The questioning of police officials, including Kolkata police commissioner Rajiv Kumar, was required as they investigated the chit fund cases before the Supreme Court handed over probes in all these matters to the central agency, say CBI officials.
Some of the Bengal police officials who the CBI wants to question have even retired now. All these officials were associated with the special investigation team (SIT) formed by the state police to look into chit fund cases.
In the first round, the CBI questioned then inspector rank officials — Shankar Bhattacharya and Dilip Hazra — on September 15 and 18, 2017.
The documents show, following the examination of two inspectors, the CBI sent its first summons to Rajiv Kumar under section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code on October 18, 2017, seeking his appearance the next day. Kumar informed the CBI that due to his engagements of law and order during festivals, he would not be able to appear on October 19.
On October 23, 2017, a second notice was sent to Kumar seeking his appearance on October 27 but he didn’t turn up. Instead, he sent a demi-official letter to the then CBI chief Alok Verma in which he questioned the need to serve notice under section 160 of the CrPC and said if commissioners were to be served notice like this for cases supervised by them, it will open “Pandora’s Box”. He suggested that first basic facts should be ascertained in the form of a questionnaire sent to him and if not satisfied, the agency’s right to serve notice for questioning always exists.
After Kumar’s letter to Verma, there was no communication between the CBI and Bengal police for the next eight months.
Then on June 27, 2018, the CBI sought the presence of a retired inspector, Debabrata Banerjee, in another chit fund case who on July 3 told the agency that he was unable to move because of age-related issues and therefore, he can be sent a questionnaire.
On July 10, the CBI wrote to the Bengal police asking for the presence of 10 investigating officers (IOs) of 10 cases related to the Saradha chit fund scam. The police replied that all these IOs were either transferred or retired so CBI can approach them at their new postings or places of residence.
On August 18, 2018, the CBI wrote to the Bengal police director general and asked for presence of Rajiv Kumar and other officials such as the special inspector general Vineet Goyal, then joint commissioner (crime) of Kolkata police Pallab Kanti Ghosh and then additional deputy commissioner of police Arnab Ghosh at a mutually convenient date and place. Besides, on the same day, the CBI also asked for the presence of four IOs on August 27 and 28. In reply, the WB police reiterated their proposal of arranging a meeting between the CBI and these officials.
On August 23, the CBI asked for date and place of meeting and but the agency was informed that the state police chief has written a letter to the then CBI director proposing that all these officials should be sent queries first.
On November 30, the CBI again sought appearance of inspectors – Shankar Bhattacharya and Dilip Hazra and Arnab Ghosh — but none of them appeared before the agency. Instead, the state government moved the Calcutta High Court claiming, notices for appearance were being sent with mala fide intention.
On December 8, the CBI again focused on Rajiv Kumar and sought his appearance on December 18, but he didn’t appear. Instead, the state police chief sent another letter to the CBI saying written questions can be sent to him and later if there was any need, a meeting with the CBI and the state police SIT members can be arranged. But when Kumar didn’t appear, finally the CBI reached at his doorstep on Sunday leading to an unprecedented showdown between the agency and the Mamata Banerjee government.