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India: Officials eye auction to benefit duped Saradha investors.

Kolkata: India's Enforcement Directorate (ED) which is investigating the money trail in the multi-billion-rupee Saradha scam, will soon seek court approval to auction seized properties and pay back duped investors.

"The agency has seized properties worth Rs1,000 crores (Rs10 billion (Dh577 million) of the group from all over Bengal, Odisha and Assam. We are seeking special court permission to auction the same and refund the money to the duped investors," said an official of ED.

The agency, which is probing the case under criminal provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), has almost completed its investigation into the case and is expected to file a charge sheet by June.

Sources inform that the cash seized during raids in various offices of the group are small and hence not many investors can be refunded through the same.

So far, the agency has found that a maze of 338 bank accounts and 224 companies were used by the perpetrators of the ponzi scam, which allegedly duped investors in various states including West Bengal, Odisha and Assam.

However, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), which is investigating the criminality of the case, has found the proposal by ED officials difficult since it has no precedence, sources said.

Also many of the assets bought were not properly transferred, which will make determination of ownership difficult.

"Sudipto Sen [the prime accused] had made payments for many properties but none of them were registered in his or companies name. Trying to prove ownership of the same will be a nightmare. Also the market for real estate has crashed since the scam broke and finding buyers at the right price will be a difficult task," said another official.

Meanwhile, suspended Trinamool Congress parliamentarian Kunal Ghosh who has been behind bars for more than a year-end-half over the matter, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention.

In the letter, he has questioned the sudden slump in the investigations in the last four months and why many politicians and bureaucrats, who allegedly benefited from the scam, including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had not been questioned.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 26, 2015
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