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Panel can confiscate assets, attach bank a/c
Statesman News Service
Kolkata, 2 September
The state government has enhanced the powers of retired Justice Shyamal Sen commission, enabling it to confiscate the assets belonging to Saradha Group for arranging compensation for duped investors.
The commission, which was formed in April to investigate the Saradha chit fund scam, will also be able to attach the bank accounts belonging to the Saradha Group and/or its sister concerns, as well as personal accounts of the directors, and restrain banks from allowing anyone to operate such accounts unless authorised by the commission.
A notification in this regard was issued by the state home department on 27 August.
The commission has received 1.7 million applications from investors of which around 85 per cent of the complaints pertain to investments less than Rs 10,000.
According to the notification, the commission will be able to confiscate property of the Saradha Group and/or their agents "in case it is satisfied that the money invested by the agents in acquiring such properties was the money collected from the depositors in collective investment scheme."
The commission will prepare a list of depositors after verification of the claims for distributing the amount to the depositors in a way it feels proper.
This apart, the commission can come up with an appropriate mode of debts recovery and add the money to the fund which is to be created. An official of the home department said that the notification has been issued as per the High Court directives regarding payment of compensation to the depositors out of assets of the Saradha Group.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced creation of a 500-crore relief fund to compensate the investors but the government is yet to come up with such fund. Miss Banerjee had said that about Rs 150 crore was to come from additional tax on tobacco products. However, state finance minister Amit Mitra recently told the Assembly that funds generated from the additional 10 per cent tax on tobacco products will be diverted to the state health department for improving infrastructure.
It may be mentioned here that West Bengal Protection of Interest of Depositors in Financial Establishments Bill, 2013 was passed in the state Assembly for providing the government powers of search and seizure and confiscation of property of dubious deposit-taking entities.
However, the Bill is still awaiting Presidential assent to be converted into an Act.