Bank of Baroda, Case 1: R.R. Bhaskar, Senior Branch Manager, South Delhi

Bhaskar stands out as a crafty banker you can entrust all your unaccounted money to make it white, and he knows where our political class parks its ill-gotten wealth: “Zyadatar politicians ka paisa toh ICICI Bank mein laga hua hai (most of the politicians’ money is invested with ICICI bank).”

The Cobrapost reporter walks into the office of R.R. Bhaskar, Senior Manager, at this branch of Bank of Baroda in one of the upscale localities in South Delhi. Bhaskar is busy in work and in between sifting through documents he asks our reporter the purpose of his visit. Our reporter promptly rattles it off: He has to discuss some “long-term investment” of a “handsome amount.”

After quietly finishing work, Bhaskar comes straight to the point: “Kitna amount hai (What is the amount)?”

It is about Rs. 50–60 lakh, says the reporter, and the minister, its owner, wants to invest it in some long-term schemes, with no TDS. The money has to be invested in three names: the minister’s wife, his frontman, our reporter himself, and his wife. A suggestion of a “meeting” with the minister brings a smile to the manager’s face.

Says Bhaskar: “TDS nahin kate (There should be no TDS)?” This is the first show of interest on the part of the manager, with an accent on the word nahin.

Yes, you see we don’t want to show it in our books. What we have is all in cash.

“Smajh gaya (I got it),” quips Bhaskar with a meaningful smile.

To test the waters, Bhaskar says that anyway you will have to bear TDS.

Then, what about insurance, some long-term policies, we helpfully suggest. The discussion opens up.

Bhaskar says: “Haan… wo ho jayega … usmein wo … TDS toh nahin katega, lekin usmein kya hai ki aapko PAN card ki copy toh deni padegi (Yes, that is possible … there will be no TDS in that, but in that you will have to give copy of your PAN card).”

But would the money become “white” in, say, 5–10 years, our reporter asks?

The manager nods in agreement: “Haan (Yes).”

This is what we are looking for, says the reporter: make our money white. We are in no hurry.

A seasoned banker that Bhaskar is, he understands our purpose, and breaks into a laugh.

This breaks the ice.
So, why don’t you help, says our reporter. That is why the minister has preferred to approach a public sector bank to a private one.

The manager gathers himself: “Oh … iska matlab hai ki mantriji suljhe hue… samajhte hain (Oh, this means the minister is discerning man … he understands it).” After some moments, resuming his work, Bhaskar says: “Long-term investment is samay toh bahut hain humare paas (At present, we have many long-term investment [plans]).”

Do help us in doing that, says our reporter. While Bhaskar continues with his work, the reporter asks him to send over some trustworthy banker to complete the formalities in the evening. We are expecting Rs. 5–7 crore in March from Greater Noida. The manager acknowledges with a quiet “Acha (Ok).”

Quietly doing his work, the manager asks: “Kaun se mantralay mein hain (Which ministry he is with)?”

Why worry when you can meet the minister in person, says our reporter while insisting the minister is “high profile.”

Breaking again into a laugh, Bhaskar reveals that the building housing the bank is also owned by a “high-profile” politico, Rao Inderjit Singh, from the Congress party, like the reporter’s minister, related to Rao Virender Singh, son of two-time erstwhile chief minister of Haryana.
Please don’t involve any outsider, pleads our reporter. Otherwise, the information may be disclosed. Saying he himself doesn’t trust outsiders, Bhaskar brushes aside such apprehensions:
“Wo main samajhta hoon yaar … itni batein toh humein samajh mein aati hain … aur hum log nahin khud chahte hain ki kisiko koi pareshani ho (I understand that, my friend … at least this much we understand … and we ourselves don’t want anybody to face any harassment).”

To check if the banker has done cash investments of similar nature, our reporter asks him if the owner of the building too has invested in some long-term plans of his bank. Bhaskar says that the owner has indeed invested but it is in white.
But how would you help us invest all our cash, wonders the reporter. Would there be any problem from the Income Tax Department in future, suppose we are served notices by them?
Bhaskar reassures us with quiet nonchalance: “Cash mein koi dikkat nahin … CA ne kya bola (There is no problem with cash …. what did the CA say)?”

Reporter says that the CA had asked for the money to be put in long-term investments. FDs are a no.

Bhaskar breaks into a laugh: “Saari reporting hoti hai … RBI ko bhi jaati hai … Income Tax office ko bhi jaati hai (All is put to reporting … [the report] goes both to RBI and to the Income Tax office).”

Pouting the demerits of doing business with private banks, our reporter tells the senior banker that what all we want is to make our black money white, without troubles from the Income Tax people. If we get some profit on our investment nothing like it.

Bhaskar is curious to know: “Amount kitna hai (How much is the amount)?”

We know the real business starts, now.

Rs. 60–70 lakh is kept at home, says the reporter, and the rest, Rs. 5 crore, is expected in March first week.

“Wo bhi cash mein hi ayega (That too will come in cash)?” Bhaskar seeks more clarification.

That too will be in cash, says the reporter. Let us begin with smaller investments and tell us if you can suggest some solid method to do it.

Understanding the point, the banker says he would speak with his investment advisor and picks up his office phone.

Bhaskar on phone to one Mr. Kamal: “Ek baat batao … humare paas koi Pioneer mein ya India First mein … aisi koi scheme hai jo cash wali ho … cashwali se meri baat samajh gaye … deposit cash mein hoga aur jis… long term … aisi koi problem aaya beech mein…wo maloom hai mujhe … tabhi to maine discuss kiya … wo toh rehte nahin … ye log nahin rehte… wo main chahta nahin … wo le lete hain ye mere ko maloom tha … uske baad jab dikkatein aati hain to saale sub pallu jhar lete hain … haan … haan … wo main jaanta hoon na … wo main … abhi aye hain lekin investment… kaafi achi hai lekin me aisa koi commitment nahin karta jisse kal ko party ko agar dikkat aye toh main aisi koi bhi commitment nahin karna chahta … toh main toh aath mahine ki liye hoon aur … toh one-time wali mein nahin hai koi (Tell me something … do we have some such scheme, in Pioneer or in India First, which is in cash … do you understand what I am mean by cash … deposit will be done in cash and which … long term… was there some such problem in between … I know that … that is why I am discussing it … they are not there … these people are not there … that I don’t want … they take it, I know that … but after that when the problems arise, all those scoundrels wash their hands of … I know that… he has come here … but investment [proposal] is pretty good but I do not make any commitment … suppose tomorrow there is some problem … so I don’t want to make any commitment … I am there for eight more months … so there is nothing on offer as one-time [scheme])?”

At this point, our reporter interjects to suggest that maybe it could be routed through an account.

Bhaskar catches on and gets back to the phone: “Account ke through route koro fir… account ke through route ho jayega… toh wo kar deta hoon … account khulwa deta hoon … sixty toh abhi hai … sixty lakh ka hai … March mein paanch crore aur ana hai … wo PAN card … PAN card toh (Then, let it be routed through account… it will be routed through account … so, I will do that … I will open account for him … right now it is Rs. 60 lakh … in March Rs. 5 crore is expected … that PAN card).”

We can do it in small amounts, chips in our reporter to suggest.

Bhaskar is quick to suggest the same: “Actually ikkatthe nahin karna chahenge …wo main bhi nahin salaah doonga ki ikkatthe karne mein ekdum se light mein aa jate hain … haan … haan … wo toh agar dus saal ke liye bhi chahte hain … haan … dus saal ke liye bhi chahte … dus saal bhi ho jaye toh chalega (Actually, it has not to be done in one shot … I will also not suggest to do it in one shot … doing it in one go may bring it to light immediately … yeah they want it to be even for 10 years… even 10 years will do).”

Our reporter interrupts to say that we have no problem. We want to make it white. That is all.

Bhaskar continues: “Haan wo wohi hai … inke CA ne inko salaah di ki aap sarkari bank mein jao … inka bharosa private walon pe nahin hai jo samajhdar CA hai wo samajta hai … sarkari kuch bhi ho jaye bund nahin hogi … toh ek kaam karo na kisi inke aadmi ko bhej do … sham ko milwa deta hoon … party bhi VIP hai, VIP party hai ye batao (Yes, that is it … their CA has advised them to approach a government bank … they don’t trust the private ones … a wise CA does understand … whatever happens, government banks will not shut down … then do one thing … send somebody … I will introduce him [to the party] in the evening … the party is a VIP also … tell him the party is VIP).”

Bhaskar ends up the conversation with this suggestion: “Ya bhej do aap Surinder Gupta ko mere paas urgently (Or send Surinder Gupta to me urgently).”

Then, turning to the reporter he assures: “Mangwata hoon (I am having him brought here).”

Slowly, a picture of the government bank official’s efficiency in such deals emerges. The manager now uses a soft, conspiratorial tone, as he advises our reporter: “Aap jitne family member hain subke naam se alag alag kar lijiye … ek aadmi ke naam se mat kariye … ek aadmi ke naam se karne se kya hota hai ki turant light mein aa jata hai … kyunki transaction toh saari scrutinize hoti hain (Do it separately in the names of all family members … don’t do it in the name of a single person …. What happens when you do it all in one person’s name it will immediately come to light … because all transactions are scrutinized).”

That is the last thing we want, says our reporter. But tell us if any report is sent from your end?

It is not us who send the report, says Bhaskar, it is the IRDA: “Humare paas se nahin … jahan jiske paas jama hota hai uske paas se reportein jati hain … aur wo hai IRDA hai, insurance mein jo hai wo IRDA hai … aap ek kaam kariyega, kuch insurance wale mein jama kar dijiyega, kuch ek mutual fund wale mein … wo saare ek jageh nahin ho (It doesn’t go from us … the reports go from wherever it is deposited … and that body is the IRDA, the IRDA in insurance … do one thing … deposit some money in the insurance products … some in mutual funds … don’t put all [the money] in one place).”

We should go for a diversified portfolio in the names of different family members. The idea is to avoid reporting.

We will open five–seven accounts, as suggested by you, promptly says the reporter, including that of minister’s wife. The banker now reveals how best we can clean our money without Income Tax people ever questioning it.

Agreeing, Bhaskar says: “Wo bahut acha hai … usmnein kahin dikkat nahin hai … uske tarike bhi hum bata sakte hain ki usmein thoda thoda thoda cash jama karo (That is very good … there is no problem with that … I can also tell you the method for that … deposit the cash in them in small, small, small amounts).”

We will do as you suggest, concurs our reporter, in tranches of Rs. 5–7 lakh.

Bhaskar nods in agreement: “Usme kya hai ki you can justify … agriculture land pakka hogi inki (laughs)… agriculture land ka paisa ismein dekhayenge … samajh gaye meri baat … actually, ye kaam CA ka hai jo main bata raha hoon … CA ko batana chahiye ki ye paisa ikkattha nahin jama karna … thoda thoda karke hi jama karna jisse aapke agriculture … income tax walon se bachne ka ek ye tarika hai (The thing is that you can justify … I am sure he owns agriculture land … actually, what I am telling you is the CA’s job … the CA must have told you that the money should not be deposited in one shot … deposit bit by bit so that your agriculture … this is one method to stave off the Income Tax people).”

Showing your black money as an income from agriculture is another way of making it white by putting it in the regular banking system, as Bhaskar suggests.

When our reporter suggests if we can open accounts in the names of the driver and such people, the senior banker advises us to desist from such adventures, citing problems inherent to such an idea, for example, it would be difficult to meet the KYC norms in their case. Even holding a joint account, as suggested by our reporter, won’t serve the purpose as there might arise a problem at the time of maturity when you would withdraw the returns. For, signatures of both joint account holders would be required.

We will get PAN cards made for them, our reporter says. You can open such two–three accounts, over and above the three accounts already discussed.

Bhaskar again strikes a note of caution: “KYC mein hum log koi bhi deviation nahin kar paate (We cannot make any deviation from KYC).”

We would take care of all those things, our reporter tells him, asking him to send someone who is trustworthy over to our place to complete the formalities.

Reminding our reporter of the requirement of PAN card, Bhaskar explains why even PAN can be made risk-proof. “Thoda thoda karawoge toh PAN mein dikhai bhi parega toh wo nazar nahin ayega (When you deposit [the cash] in smaller chunks, then even if it shows up in your PAN it will not be noticed).”

This is the trick of the trade, we learn now, to keep all such transactions low profile, undetectable.

The experienced banker goes on to suggest that it is always better to deposit less than Rs. 10 lakh a year in an account, which is below the reporting threshold. Otherwise, it is straightaway reported to the Income Tax Department, and then they can pick up your case for scrutiny.

Hereafter, he comes up with yet another suggestion. Go for some recurring deposits which don’t attract income tax, and you can deposit cash every month for a period up to 10 years.

We couldn’t agree more!

After putting in the cash into the banking system is discussed, Bhaskar comes to investment in insurance, the benefits of life cover and all such tidings, as guaranteed refund of the sum assured.

So, would we get the refund by cheque, in white, asks the reporter. Hope, there would be no TDS.

Bhaskar agrees: “Wo jo refund ayega, wo cheque mein ayega (You will get the refund by cheque).”

In other words, which means “white” money, and there would be no TDS.

What more one can ask when your illegal cash is welcome for investment and when it is coming to you as something squeaky clean in the form of returns, with not tax liability.

Satisfied, when our reporter seeks assurance from the banker if there was any risk involved, Bhaskar reassures: “Nahin ismein koi nahin (No, there is nothing [like a risk] in it).”

He then says that the insurer he has asked to come over to discuss the investment with us is from India First, which is a joint venture of Bank of Baroda, Andhra Bank and a 100 year old company from England. So, there is no chance of the company ever becoming insolvent, and your money is safe.

The reporter now comes to another item on his wish-list.

Would you give us a locker big enough to keep Rs. 5–7 crore we are expecting in March in bills of 500?

Although, the banker is not sanguine about committing himself as he has lockers of normal size, not big enough to accommodate so much cash, he nonetheless reassures: “Wo locker ka dekhenge (Of lockers, we will see later).”

Bhaskar continues to advise our reporter to ask the minister to do it in smaller chunks and invest in some long-term insurance scheme.

We would sure follow what you say, the reporter gives him due praise.

The banker bemoans: “Aajkal inmeim bahut panga ho gaya hai (These days there is lot of hassles in this).”

You are right, our reporter agrees, and if you have money you have a problem, if you don’t you still have a problem.

Quips the banker: “Bhai anaap sanaap nahin hona hai … anaap shanaap hota wahin dikkat hota hai (Brother, it should not be loads of unaccounted money … when loads of unaccounted money it brings problems in its wake).”

But when we have a seasoned advisor in you why should we worry, says our reporter. What a flatterer he is!

Our banker has begun attending some work that one of his staff members has brought on his table. To draw him into discussion, our reporter comes to another of his demands. Would the bank provide a counting machine for the crores that we would be bringing straight to the branch in March?

The banker again says: “Ikkatthe mat lana (Don’t bring it all at once).”

We will do as you suggest, our reporter assures him. We would bring the cash in tranches of something like 2 crore.

While still busy working, Bhaskar suddenly says: “Zyadatar politicians ka paisa toh ICICI Bank mein laga hua hai (Most of the politicians’ money is invested with ICICI Bank).”

Our reporter feigns ignorance.

We have more nuggets of wisdom: “Actually kya hota hai… ki do number se ek number karna bahut kathin kaam hai aaj keliye… pehle ho jata tha, abhi mushkil hai…kyunki maloom sub hota hai unko … sub ko sub pata rahta hai ki kahan se kahan hota hai… jo log minister hain ya IAS hain unko saare raste maloom hain … IAS wale toh khoob loot te hain public ko … unko raaste maloom hain aur wo jaante hain kisko kahan pakda jaana chahiye (Actually, what happens is … nowadays it is very difficult to convert No. 2 money into No. 1 … earlier it used to happen … now it is difficult … everyone knows what happens where … those people who are ministers or IAS, they know all the ways … the IAS officers are looting the public … they know all sorts of ways and know who to catch hold of and where).”

Bhaskar then alludes to the example of a former chief minister of Jharkhand involved in a case of corruption to the tune of hundreds of crores, and he informs us that a certain income tax commissioner had told him how the minister had split his crores across 3000 branches of many banks.

Hope you won’t share our information with the taxman, says our reporter in a lighter vein.

Bhaskar reassures us: “Humare paas se information nahin jaati … case saumpa jaata hai … ya for koi complaint kar de (We don’t give information on our own … [or when] a case is handed over [to us] … or if somebody files a complaint).”

After he has finished the work, he asks the other banker to stay back and turning to our reporter says that the insurance advisor he has asked to come over may say he will take in all the money. But a few years down the line, he may no longer be working with the same company. He too would retire in coming September. Therefore, he would suggest only what is safe for us so that we don’t have to face any problem afterward. Telling the other banker that we are there to invest Rs. 60 lakh, while expecting Rs. 5 crore in March, in cash to convert No. 2 into white, he launches into a long-winding explanation exercise how best it would be for us if invested in mutual funds, apart from insurance.

Thanking him for his advice, our reporter promptly suggests him to meet the minister.

Bhaskar agrees: “Wo main mil loonga wo koi issue nahin hai (I will meet him … there is no issue).” But first we all must arrive at a decision.
Now, the reporter comes to the last of his wish-list.

The minister’s wife often goes to England. She wants to send there a few of the crores, in tranches of, say, Rs. 40 lakh each. Could you help us?

The senior banker is, however, of little help as he shows the rule book. It is always risky to do it without RBI permission, he says. And then there are income tax people who will not lose an opportunity to make a kill if they smell a fish when the investment is really big. So, do anything in a manner that is safe. At stake is the prestige of the minister.

He says of the Income Tax people: “Wo bhi kamate hain … wo jab jaate hain toh unka muhn itna bada hota hai (They too earn [on the sly] … when they make a raid they open their mouth as does a goblin).” They would extort money from you, and then there is this all-pervasive media, so anybody with a name would never like such a thing to happen to tarnish it. Since it is a “do number ka paisa,” they would shell out any amount of money to get the taxman close their files.

He finally quips: “Agar aap sarkai bank ko dekhte hue aaye hain to aapko thoda bahut sarkari ke niyamo ka paalan karna zaroori hai (If you have come to a government bank, then you should also follow certain government rules to some extent).”

On this note, the meeting draws to a close, with our reporter promising to get back at the appointed time to meet the insurance official.

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