The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has expanded its probe into the Saradha scam by 'questioning' senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's wife Nalini. The agency examined Nalini, a Supreme Court lawyer, in Chennai on Saturday, according to news agency PTI, in connection with the legal fees paid to her by the Saradha Group.
However, Nalini said in a statement in Chennai later that she was not questioned by CBI, but consulted professionally. "CBI did not question me. CBI officers wanted to know whether Mrs Manoranjana Sinh had consulted me professionally. I told them yes. I was consulted," she said.
According to sources, Saradha Chairman and alleged mastermind of the scam Sudipta Sen, who is in jail, had mentioned about hiring Nalini as a lawyer at the request of Manoranjana Sinh, the estranged wife of Congress leader Mantang Sinh. Sen, who had written a letter to CBI last year, had claimed that Rs 1 crore was paid to the lawyer as her legal fee by the Saradha Group.
Nalini represented Manoranjana and, therefore, was asked to offer her professional advice in her negotiations with Sen in connection with plans by the Group to acquire a TV channel in the northeast. The lawyer is believed to have advised her client against the Rs 42-crore investment by the Group to acquire the TV channel. CBI recently raided properties owned by Matang Sinh in connection with the scam.
Nalini did not responded to calls and messages for her reaction. Her team claimed that CBI only obtained a 70-page report prepared by her in connection with the plans for the TV channel acquisition. The near-Rs 1-crore fee was for one year's assistance; it was transparent and nominal, sources close to Nalini said.
In August, CBI teams of about 10-15 officials each carried out searches at 28 locations spread across the national Capital, Kolkata, Guwahati and Odisha in connection with FIRs against the Saradha Group. The Gol Market residence and office of Matang Sinh in New Delhi were searched as well. Sing is former minister of state for home affairs. Besides, residences of Manoranjana, former IPS officer Rajat Majumdar, executive committee member of East Bengal club Debabrata Sarkar and Sen were searched, CBI sources had said.
2 STOCKBROKERS ARRESTED
>> CBI arrested two stockbrokers on Sunday for allegedly being involved in misappropriation of funds of scam-hit Artha Tatwa (AT) Group, a case which is a fallout of Saradha chit fund scam
>> Deepak Pareekh was questioned on Saturday evening and arrested in Odhisa, agency sources said
>> Pareekh has also allegedly obtained licence from Sebi and MCX for the AT Group. His house was searched by CBI in August this year
>> At Pareekh's instructions, AT Group established Artha Tatwa Capital Limited (ATCL), which was enlisted on BSE
>> Pareekh used to invest AT Group's money in the stock market and is alleged to have made investment of behalf of several influential persons
>> The other stockbroker is Dharmendra Bothra, arrested for his alleged links with the AT Group fraud