KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee was embarrassed when a businessman, who accompanied her to Bangladesh, was arrested immediately after landing at the airport here in connection with a fraud case.
Shibaji Panja, who runs a Bengali television channel, was arrested by the Immigration Department when he returned along with Mamata from Dhaka on Saturday night.
Delhi Police had issued a lookout notice against him on charges of defrauding and economic conspiracy.
Panja was on Sunday produced before a local court, which granted him bail as the Delhi Police did not turn up to take him to the national capital.
Mamata, who had on several occasions taken Panja to trips abroad, immediately distanced herself from the entire episode, saying, “He is a businessman and I have nothing to do with him.”
The opposition parties, however, cried foul and demanded that Mamata too should be included in a case of conspiracy, as she had taken him to Dhaka and embarrassed the country.
“She had knowingly taken Panja, who was involved in economic offences for a long time, and she is also a beneficiary. The Centre should step in and start an inquiry against her too,” said veteran Congress leader Abdul Mannan.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha, meanwhile, said it was very much a proof of Mamata’s involvement in corruption.
CPM Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim also attacked Mamata, saying, “A man is known by the company he keeps. She encourages corruption and her core team includes such people, who are economic offenders. She disgraced the country by taking him to Bangladesh as she did not go there as West Bengal Chief Minister only but represented the country. It’s a shame for us.”
Panja, who runs Kolkata TV, is close to Mamata and the channel has leaning towards the TMC Government in the state.
Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien alleged that it was politically motivated. “Why did they not arrest him earlier?” he said.
The Delhi Police had issued the lookout notice on February 19 night, but by that time Panja had already flown to Dhaka with Mamata.