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Saradha chit fund scam: Who is Bengal's ponzi grand-master Sudipta Sen?

by Drimi Chaudhuri

Kolkata: The million dollar question everyone wants an answer tois, 'who is Sudipta Sen'. Looking at the breadth of Sen's scam, thequestion 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 intohis 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.

Agents of Saradha Group demand the return of their  money. IBN Live.

Agents of Saradha Group demand the return of their money. IBN Live.

Sen, however, has vanished from the scene and must be watchingwith a smirk on his face as his offices in different parts of Bengalare being ransacked by hapless agents, who are at the receiving end ofthe 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 mostpeople who worked with him, he now seems to be nothing more than an

apparition. His whereabouts are as unknown as are is his origins. Aphotocopy of his passport (E5817935, issued on 5 January 2004) givesout his address as A/5, Survey Park at Santoshpur in the southernfringes of Kolkata.

According to the document, he was born to Nripendra Narayan Sen andRanu Kana Sen on 30 March 1959. Rumours, however, abound that he is

actually the son of Bhudeb Sen, another notorious character in theannals of the state's financial history.

Bhudeb or Bhulu, as he wasbetter known, had floated a chit (cheat?) fund company calledSanchayini sometime in the 1980s in Kolkata and decamped with croresin 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 plasticsurgery operation to change his look after he was on the verge ofbeing arrested sometime in the mid-1990s following another scam.The man with a mysterious background is said to have then surfaced in UttarPradesh with a new name and appearance in 2004.

It was then that hedecided to launch this scheme of raising money from the unsuspectingpublic with the promise of unheard of returns. Rising like a phoenixfrom 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 theopportune moment.

Sen followed in the footsteps Charles Ponzi, the father of all suchfraudulent 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 USin 1920s in a previously unseen scale.

Media reports suggest that the scale of Sen's operations covereda number of states across India and reverberations of the crash wouldsoon be felt from Assam to Maharashtra and other states in between.

Sen decided to make his arsenal even stronger by setting up mediahouses, which not just added respectability to his racket but alsobrought 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 limelightand the dubious nature of his business drew the wrong kind ofhoney-seekers, who all wanted a piece of Sen's profit pie.

In a letter written to his agents and investors from his hideoutearlier this week, Sen cursed the day he got into the media businessand pointed out how people from these organisations sucked him dry andled to his downfall.

He also dispelled rumours of being on the run andassured 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 themost 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.