Former Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar should not be allowed to leave the country, the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI has said in a lookout notice to airports and ports in connection with its probe into the Saradha chit fund scam in West Bengal. Mr Kumar is accused of destroying evidence related to the Ponzi scheme when he was heading the probe.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain Mr Kumar's plea seeking extension of protection from arrest in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam. The former police commissioner was granted protection from arrest for a seven-day period which ended on May 24.
"As the Supreme Court's seven-day period ended on Friday and no court has given anticipatory bail to Kumar yet, CBI is free to proceed for custodial interrogation of Kumar. A formal summon to be issued to Rajeev Kumar shortly asking him to join the probe," a top official of the CBI told NDTV, requesting not to be named.
The CBI had told the Supreme Court, which had asked the agency to investigate the scandal, that it wanted custodial interrogation of Mr Kumar. There was preliminary evidence of him allegedly trying to destroy or tamper with evidence and "shield high and mighty" in the case, CBI said, adding it needs to take Mr Kumar into custody to question him about the finer details of the case.
Rajeev Kumar's lawyer had told the Supreme Court that the agency wanted his custodial interrogation "just to humiliate" him and the CBI should not be allowed to abuse the process of law.
On February 3, a team of CBI officers was stopped from entering Mr Kumar's home in Kolkata when they had gone to question him in connection with the chit fund scam cases. The move had prompted Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to go on a sit-in in the heart of the city against what she called was an "attack on constitutional norms".
Over a week later, acting on the Supreme Court's order, the CBI questioned Mr Kumar for five days in Shillong. The top court had also ordered that no coercive action can be taken against Rajeev Kumar and he cannot be arrested.
Mr Kumar was then transferred to the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of the West Bengal Police. On May 16, he was moved to the Union Home Ministry in Delhi by the Election Commission after violence during a rally by BJP chief Amit Shah in Kolkata. He reported for duty at the Home Ministry on Thursday but went on leave the same day.
The Saradha scam was a major financial fraud which lured lakhs of investors to deposit money in its schemes with glossy brochures and the promise of abnormally high returns. An official estimate says Saradha had mopped up about Rs. 1,200 crore through its chit funds, but some calculations put that the figure closer to Rs. 4,000 crore. The company collapsed in April 2013.