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Businessman in Mamata's Dhaka entourage arrested, opposition hits out
Sunday February 22, 2015 5:55 PM, IANS

Entrepreneur and film producer Shibaji Panja, who accompanied West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on her Bangladesh visit, was Sunday arrested at the Kolkata airport in connection with a fraud case.

While Banerjee tried to distance herself, the opposition slammed the Trinamool Congress chief and accused her of dishonouring the country by allowing a "criminal" to be part of her entourage.

Panja was detained Saturday upon his arrival at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose international airport. The airport police subsequently arrested him Sunday.

"A lookout notice was issued by Delhi Police against Panja. In pursuance of that, we arrested him. The Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police has initiated a case against him," said an airport police officer.

Delhi Police had issued the lookout notice against Panja Feb 19, the very day he left for Dhaka along with Banerjee and other delegation members.

Panja, who co-produced Bengali movie "Byomkesh Bakshi", is also a member of the Kolkata International Film Festival committee.

Panja's arrest is turning out to be major embarrassment for the Trinamool Congress which is already cornered over the multi-crore-rupee Saradha chit fund scam.

Distancing herself from the incident, a seemingly peeved Banerjee said: "There can be a case against a businessman, that is his matter. This is not related to me."

The opposition parties pointed fingers at Banerjee and her Trinamool.

"He is an important member of the chief minister's kitchen cabinet and is said to be entrusted with raising funds for the Trinamool. He was there during her Singapore trip and he also went to Bangladesh," BJP national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh said.

"The chief minister is liable to answer what Panja was doing by accompanying her. Mamataji will have to elaborate about his involvement with the Trinamool," he added.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Mohammad Salim demanded a thorough probe into Panja's involvement with the Trinamool Congress party.

"Much like the Trinamool was involved with Saradha chief Sudipta Sen, we believe Panja too has a similar involvement. We demand that the matter is properly investigated and is not hushed up," said Salim.

CPI-M leader and former Kolkata mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya accused Banerjee of trying to shield Panja.

"It is unfathomable that the chief minister is unaware about her entourage. Without proper background checks, a person cannot be part of such high profile delegation. She intentionally took him along with a view to shielding him from the police," said Bhattacharya.

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too attacked Banerjee.

"When she is going to Bangladesh, she is not only the chief minister of Bengal but she is representing the entire country. By carrying a criminal with her, she has dishonoured not only Bengal but the entire country," said Chowdhury.

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