Assam: CBI arrests Opposition leader’s brother

Ashok Saikia furnishes proof of loan repayment, was there an ulterior motive behind arrest?

Assam: CBI arrests Opposition leader’s brother

In a shocking development Ashok Saikia, who is the brother of Congress leader Debabrata Saikia, and son for former Assam Chief Minister Hiteshwar Saikia, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday. The matter pertains to a loan repayment case from 1998.

An FIR had been filed at the Paltan Bazaar police station by the Assam State Co-operative and Agriculture Development (ASCARD) Bank against Ashok Saikia for non-repayment of the loan amount. The CBI had taken over the case in 2001 and filed two cases. The Sentinel Assam reports that the arrest is the result of a chargesheet filed in two cases RC Case no.5/E/2001- Cal and RC case no.6/E/2001-Cal which were registered by the CBI on transfer of the Paltan Bazar PS case no. 199/98 and no.202/98 respectively.

Saikia was convicted in one of them, and then moved High Court against the conviction. It is the second case that was at the heart of Sunday’s arrest. A CBI team raided his residence Sarumataria, Guwahati on Sunday. Saikia was presented before a CBI court today and granted bail.

Debabrata Saikia, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam State Assembly reacted to his brother’s arrest and told NDTV, “He has said that he had already repaid the balance amount and he also has relevant documents to prove that. If he has already repaid the amount and a case has been filed against him, why has the bank not intimidated the investigating agency?” Further questioning the CBI’s role, he said, “Also, CBI officials claim they sent several intimations to my brother at our residence regarding the outstanding amount, but though my mother stays there, we haven’t received any such intimation.”

NDTV also quoted a statement released by Ashok Sakia where he claimed that he had paid off the loan in 2011 through a “compromised settlement scheme”. He said, “A proof to this effect was also issued by the bank back in 2015 undersigned by the bank’s then general manager. This is a fake case staged against me by people with vested interest.” He also produced a letter from the bank as proof of payment. News 18 quotes the letter as saying, “Ashok Kumar Saikia, Director, HBS India Pvt. Ltd was a loanee of Assam State Co-operative Agriculture and Rural Development (ASCARD) Bank Limited. He has availed loan amount of Rs 9,37,701 only under Bridge Loan Scheme during the year 1996. As per our letter dated 14.09.2011 under the compromise settlement scheme he has fully repaid the dues both principal and interest. Now his aforesaid loan is liquidated.”

While the authenticity of the bank document is yet to be ascertained, one cannot ignore how the regime has been using the CBI to intimidate Opposition leaders.

How the regime used the CBI in West Bengal

Next door in West Bengal, the CBI had arrested three leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and a former mayor in May this year, in connection with a Narada sting operation. The case refers to a sting operation where all four were caught accepting bribes on camera. The CBI arrested TMC ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherji, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and ex-Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee who was previously a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Much drama ensued with supporters gathering outside the CBI office and holding demonstrations. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee too arrived at the CBI office in Nizam Palace and stayed put till the CBI court granted the four men bail. Just hours later, the Calcutta HC had stayed the bail observing, “This court has been called upon to deal with an extra-ordinary situation where Chief Minister of the State can sit on a dharna outside the office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (for short, ‘CBI’) along with her supporters, which had investigated the case and was to present a charge-sheet in court against the accused who are senior party leaders of the party in power in the State, some of them being Ministers. Not only this, the Law Minister of the State was present in Court where the accused were to be presented along with mob of 2000 to 3000 supporters.” The court later put them under house arrest.

Before that, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) served notice to Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Partha Chatterjee in April 2021, in connection with the Rs 500 crore ponzi scheme allegedly run by the I-Core group. While the CBI is investigating the chit-fund scam, the ED is probing the money laundering element to the case. The timing of the notice was curious though as I-Core’s chairman Anukul Maiti had been arrested in the case on April 16, 2016.

In March 2021, raided six locations in Mumbai in connection with the Saradha scam. These places are reportedly the residences and offices of three officials of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) who have been allegedly implicated in the case. The timing of these raids was also curious given how they took place in the run up to the West Bengal elections. Sudipto Sen, the main accused in the case, was said to be close to Banerjee. However, so far investigation authorities have not been able to find any evidence of Mamata Banerjee’s involvement.

SabrangIndia had previously reported how the CBI began vigorously reinvesting in the Saradha case in July 2020 when it filed as many as 30 First Information Reports (FIR) in connection with the case. FIRs were reportedly filed for frauds ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 crore. It is also noteworthy that TMC leaders had been implicated in those cases as well, and some of them switched sides to the BJP, allegedly to get a clean chit. These include Mukul Roy and Mithun Chakraborty.

The intimidation experiment failed in Bengal with the TMC retaining power, even demolishing the BJP in bye-elections held recently. Perhaps the regime now wants to use the same tactics in Assam given they are in power in the state?


CBI arrests TMC leaders in Narada sting case

CBI reinvests vigorously in WB chit-fund case investigations

Saradha scam: CBI raids six locations in Mumbai



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