New Delhi / Kolkata:
The collapse in West Bengal of the Saradha group and its alleged links to Mamata Banerjee's party, has brought attention to another company under a cloud and which too has prominent links to the Trinamool Congress.
The Alchemist Group is a 10,000-crore rupee group with 11 companies and 9,800 employees across the country. It was started by industrialist KD Singh in 1981. Mr Singh, now a Rajya Sabha MP from the Trinamool Congress, retired from all paid positions in the Alchemist Group in September 2012, after he became an MP. He continues to be chairman emeritus of the Alchemist Group.
In early 2012, the Reserve Bank of India forwarded a complaint by CPI leader D Raja against Alchemist Infra Realty Limited, one of the group's companies, to the Registrar of Companies or ROC. Mr Raja alleged that the company was raising money from the public by improper means.
The ROC conducted an enquiry and noted in a report that Alchemist Infra Realty Limited had raised Rs 449.41 crore from the public in 2010 by issue of brochures and offering various schemes like allotment of residential plots and debentures, and in 2011, this amount swelled to Rs 1087.69 crore.
The ROC report observed that, "the company does not have any land assets and it has simply collected funds from the public on false promises " and warned that, "there is every possibility that public shall not get due returns after maturity."
The Registrar of Companies also said there was the possibility of " large, well planned, collusive financial impropriety which can harm the interest of thousands of small depositors." It recommended an investigation.
Then Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily ordered an investigation to be carried out by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office or SFIO.
The Alchemist Group, which emphatically denies all charges of impropriety in business, moved the Delhi High Court for a stay order against the inquiry, which was granted. The next date of hearing is in a few months from now.
The group has told NDTV, "Alchemist is a large group and believes in fair business practices. The cited matter is in court and hence subjudice. We believe in the law of the land and will follow the law always."
The emailed response to NDTV's queries also said, "(It) suffices to say that we don't agree with the charges which were based on motivated complaints hence the matter is in court of law. (It) won't be out of place to mention that Alchemist group is in existence since last 32 years and has never defaulted in any business or financial commitments towards public in general or any institutions in particular."