Chit fund folds up, agents made to pay

Tamluk, Feb. 1: Nearly 500 villagers in East Midnapore who were swindled out of Rs 5 crore by a chit fund allegedly forced two agents to write off their property in the name of 16 of the residents.

The allegation has surfaced at a time senior CPM leaders such as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Asim Dasgupta have been complaining of the proliferation of chit funds with unsustainable models.

The cheated villagers claimed they took the step because they felt it "would have been of no use" approaching police.

One of the agents, Amar Kumar Giri, a resident of Dakshin Kalamdan village in Khejuri, lodged a complaint with the subdivisional police officer (SDPO) of Contai, Indrajit Basu, and the subdivisional officer, Sumit Gupta, yesterday.

Amar, 42, said he and his younger brother, Asit, 40, had been working as agents for the East Midnapore-based chit fund, BDM Marketing Limited, since 2009. The firm has offices in Bajkul and Contai.

"We collected about Rs 5 crore from villagers in Khejuri, Contai, Bajkul, Chandipur and Nandigram and deposited the money with the company between 2009 and 2011," Amar said.

"The company had promised huge returns such as doubling of money in five years, four times in seven years and seven times in 10 years. There were also short-term investments with 20 per cent interest. Initially, some investors got their returns. But when some villagers failed to get their returns in the middle of last year, they started pressuring us for money," Amar added.

He claimed that in last June, the two offices of the company closed down and the directors disappeared.

"We lodged police complaints. My brother and I went to the house of one of the three directors in Tamluk in November but he was not at home," Amar said.

He said the director's brother and sister took Asit to another office of the company at Canning in South 24-Parganas but no one was there.

"Then they brought kidnapping charges against my brother and got him arrested," Amar said.

The 500-odd duped residents, mostly fishery owners, formed a group comprising 16 investors from Dakshin Kalamdan and asked them to pressure the brothers into writing off their property in the group's name. It was decided that once the job would be done, the money would be distributed among all the investors.

Tarapada Sashmal, 38, said he had deposited Rs 1.2 lakh but did not get his money back at 20 per cent interest.

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