TMC civic leader’s money-lending company in Asansol under scanner

A money-lending company run by a Trinamool civic body representative of Asansol Municipality Corporation is under scanner. Yesterday police took for “verification” some documents from the Asansol office of the money-lending company, Astha, which is being run by run by the Trinamool civic leader, who is also the mayor-in-council member of Asansol municipality.

Asansol Mayor- Tapas Banerjee

Animesh Das, who is the chairman and co-owner of Astha, is known to be very close to Asansol mayor Tapas Banerjee. It is being alleged that the money-lending company, Astha does not have authorization to transact such businesses.

Additional deputy commissioner of police of Asansol on being asked about the so called “verification” said, “We are creating a database on companies that are involved in money-marketing. As part of that exercise, we went to the office (of Astha Finance and Investment) to take some documents. If we find anything incriminating, we will seize them.”

Animesh Das said that he runs the company with a trade license. He said, “I give loans to people. Those seeking loans needs to deposit 20 per cent of the loan amount with the company, which is not refundable.”

A lawyer at Durgapur court said a money-lending company could not operate with a trade license.

“Any private company dealing with money, either giving loans or collecting investments from people, must have authorization from the Reserve Bank of India and SEBI,” Tushar Gupta said.

Smarajit Roy Chowdhury, a corporate lawyer at Calcutta High Court, said: “For any kind of monetary transaction, a company has to obtain a statutory permission from the Reserve Bank of India.”

Last week, the CPM had submitted a memorandum to Asansol mayor Tapas Banerjee, alleging that Astha was “illegally raising funds” from the public and urging him to initiate a probe against the owner.
However Mayor Banerjee ruled out the CPM’s charge, saying Astha provided loans to people and “there is nothing wrong in it”.

Tapas Roy, the Opposition leader in the Asansol Municipal Corporation said, “We have information that Astha is raising funds from the people illegally. But the mayor did not include it in the list (of deposit-mobilization companies using questionable means to raise money) because Astha is run by a mayoral council member.”

Asansol Mayor Tapas Banerjee, earlier said, “I have inquired into the CPM’s allegations against Astha and found that the company only gives loans. What is wrong in it? That is why I did not mention it in the list. If later it is found that the company is involved in illegal deals, we will include it in the list.”

The belated call for action coming in the wake of the Saradha crisis have raised questions on why such a move was not taken earlier, which could have stopped the companies from “illegally” raising money from investors.

Asansol mayor Tapas Banerjee and Durgapur mayor Apurba Mukherjee wrote to the Burdwan district magistrate and the Asansol-Durgapur police commissioner last week requesting them to immediately investigate complaints against the 72 companies. But why have they not mentioned the name of Astha remains a mystery.

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