Kolkata: The Saradha Group went bust over a year ago but its web site, which lured unsuspecting poor people into investing in its chit fund schemes and deprived them of their hard-earned savings, still exists.
The website www.saradhagroup.biz can be accessed on the Internet. It begins with a message: "Saradha Group of companies has brought in a new renaissance for better development of the country. We always give more importance for the development of the community, along with education and social upgradation. We give priority to moral values."
It is 20 months since the chit fund company closed down, leaving lakhs of investors, mainly from rural Bengal, cheated of their life's savings following which Saradha Group chairman Sudipto Sen was arrested from Kashmir in April, last year.
"We will look into the matter how the website is still there on the web," an official of CBI, which is probing the fraud, told PTI when asked. "It might be that the agency which has created the website, has been paid the money. We have to look into it," he said.
The website has the address and contact numbers and email IDs of 69 branch offices of Saradha Group spread across West Bengal, Tripura, Odisha, Assam and New Delhi. The home page opens with the message "You Wish We Fulfill" and an introduction about Saradha's journey which began 12 years ago.
It also mentions the group of companies that Saradha had floated. They are: Saradha Construction, Saradha Realty, Landmark Cement, Saradha Agro, Saradha Education Hub, Saradha Tea Estate, Saradha Health resorts, Saradha Tours & Travels, Saradha Shopping Mall and Saradha Exports. It went on to say, "Several other prolific ventures would soon come up to see the daylight. The group is driven by innovation, quality, excellence, and a social conscience."
The website has the list of companies of Saradha group such as Saradha Ad Agency Pvt Ltd, Saradha Properties Pvt Ltd, Saradha Biogas Production Pvt Ltd, Saradha Multipurpose Himghar Pvt Ltd, Saradha Livestock Breeding Pvt Ltd, Bhasank Foods Pvt Ltd and Global Automobiles.
It also mentions four housing projects including Saradha Gardens, which was used by Sen to raise money through Saradha Realty.
The investigation into the multi-crore rupees scam has revealed that these companies were used by Sen as a bait to raise money for the ponzi schemes.
"We saw advertisements of the Saradha Group in TV channels. After seeing the advertisements, I saw the website which was very impressive. I thought it was very reliable to invest in Saradha and I did so," said Swapan Pal, 41, who had invested Rs two lakh. Minati Ray went through a similar experience having her first exposure to the ponzi company through the website.
"I was a viewer of Saradha Group's news channel Channel 10. There I first came to know about the huge returns that the company was giving to its depositors. I visited the website and.... invested Rs 25000," Ray, who participated in a rally in support of the victims of the scam, said.
The website showcases various events which were either funded or were directly sponsored by Saradha group. The much hyped football match between Lionel Messi-led Argentina vs Venezuela, whose broadcast rights were bagged by Saradha Group's news channel Channel 10 is among them.
Also in the list is a Natyamela (theatre festival) and a tele awards sponsored by the group. The CBI, which is looking into the Ponzi scam, has till now arrested eight prominent persons in connection with it. They are Trinamool Congress MP Srinjoy Bose, suspended party MP Kumal Ghosh, ex-West Bengal Police director general Rajat Majumdar, Assamese singer Sadananda Gogoi, East Bengal club official Debabrata Sarkar and businessman Sandhir Agarwal, besides Sen and Mukherjee.
All of them have been named in a chargesheet by the central investigating agency.