by Drimi Chaudhuri
Kolkata: The million dollar question everyone wants an answer to is, 'who is Sudipta Sen'. Looking at the breadth of Sen’s scam, the question could well be worth around Rs 4,000 crore. Estimates suggest that is the amount of money Sen seems to have made in the last five years since he first ventured into his high-rolling investment scheme, which has now left lakhs in the lurch.
The number of field agents of the Saradha Group stand at 2.5 lakh. One can only imagine how many small-time, hardworking investors had placed their faith and money in Saradha's several investment schemes.
The alleged involvement of leaders from not just one, but various political parties, have added to the anger, frustration and apprehensions of the agents and the investors.
Sen, however, has vanished from the scene and must be watching with a smirk on his face as his offices in different parts of Bengal are being ransacked by hapless agents, who are at the receiving end of the investors' wrath. Several of these agents had themselves invested in Sen's schemes.
Coming back to the question of the hour: who is Sudipta Sen? To most people who worked with him, he now seems to be nothing more than an
apparition. His whereabouts are as unknown as are is his origins. A photocopy of his passport (E5817935, issued on 5 January 2004) gives out his address as A/5, Survey Park at Santoshpur in the southern fringes of Kolkata.
According to the document, he was born to Nripendra Narayan Sen and Ranu Kana Sen on 30 March 1959. Rumours, however, abound that he is
actually the son of Bhudeb Sen, another notorious character in the annals of the state’s financial history.
Bhudeb or Bhulu, as he was better known, had floated a chit (cheat?) fund company called Sanchayini sometime in the 1980s in Kolkata and decamped with crores in a similar Ponzi scheme like Sudipta Sen managed recently.
While Sen had strongly denied being Bhudeb Sen's son in private meetings and to the media houses other than his own, the fuzzy origins of the capital with which he floated his companies point to a possible connection with Bhudeb. After the scam surfaced it seems quite plausible that Sudipta floated his companies with the ill-gotten funds his father managed to pocket in his glory days.
Sudipta Sen is said to have even undergone a plastic surgery operation to change his look after he was on the verge of being arrested sometime in the mid-1990s following another scam. The man with a mysterious background is said to have then surfaced in Uttar Pradesh with a new name and appearance in 2004.
It was then that he decided to launch this scheme of raising money from the unsuspecting public with the promise of unheard of returns. Rising like a phoenix from UP, he paid his way into the entrails of political parties and became a regular fixture at corridors of power, always knowing which palms to grease so he could extract his pound of flesh at the opportune moment.
Sen followed in the footsteps Charles Ponzi, the father of all such fraudulent investment operations. Although Ponzi did not invent the scheme, his name had gotten associated with such schemes forever after he notoriously used the technique in the US in 1920s in a previously unseen scale.
Media reports suggest that the scale of Sen’s operations covered a number of states across India and reverberations of the crash would soon be felt from Assam to Maharashtra and other states in between.
Sen decided to make his arsenal even stronger by setting up media houses, which not just added respectability to his racket but also brought put up a tangible facade, making it easy to con investors and raise money.
His entry into the world of media put him under the limelight and the dubious nature of his business drew the wrong kind of honey-seekers, who all wanted a piece of Sen's profit pie.
In a letter written to his agents and investors from his hideout earlier this week, Sen cursed the day he got into the media business and pointed out how people from these organisations sucked him dry and led to his downfall.
He also dispelled rumours of being on the run and assured that the money would be returned with due interest. Sen, however, is nowhere to be found and whatever little has been unearthed about him, he might very well have never existed the way investors, agents and his employees seemed to have known him. He, however, is undoubtedly the most sensational of all Sens Bengal has had!
Drimi Chaudhuri is a senior journalist who worked with several national news publications before joining The Bengal Post, run by the Saradha Group, a few years back.