ICICI BANK, CASE 5: S. A. AHUJA, SENIOR FINANCIAL SERVICE MANAGER; G. RAIKAR, MANAGER, BANGALORE, KARNATAKA
OPERATION RED SPIDER, PART- 1

ICICI BANK, CASE 5: S. A. AHUJA, SENIOR FINANCIAL SERVICE MANAGER; G. RAIKAR, MANAGER, BANGALORE, KARNATAKA

cobrapost |
February 22, 2018

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Here, the suggested route for laundering black money is to show the fictitious politician as an NRI

Posing as a businessman who wants to move to Bangalore, the Cobrapost journalist walks into this branch of ICICI Bank somewhere in Bangalore where the receptionist directs him to Senior Financial Service Manager S. Ahuja. The journalist tells him he wants to invest Rs. 40–50 lakh in cash. Ahuja advises him to go for one of the best plans under ICICI wealth management which yields high returns.

Has he ever done this kind of big investment for any customer? Ahuja says: “Pachees lakh ka kiya hai ye last week mein hi. Ek hi aadmi ne pachees lakh per annum pay kiya hai. Ek crore pachees lakh ka investment tha (I have done one case of Rs. 25 lakh only last week. One man has paid Rs. 25 lakh per annum. It was an investment of Rs. 1.25 crore).”

But have you done it in cash?

Ahuja replies: “Haan cash mein bhi kar sakte hain…no problem … hum log lete hain Sir aisi koi baat nahin hai (Yes, we can do it in cash also … no problem … we accept cash Sir. There is nothing to worry).”

But it will be risky too to give a PAN card because it will alert the Income Tax authorities. The manager thinks and then suggests: “Aap kabhi out of India gaye hain (Have you ever gone out of India)?”

Yes many times. Ahuja: “To theek hai fir hum log NRI show karenge … aapko bata raha hun ye actually hum log bata nahin sakte banking mein … toh just aap ye poochh rahe hain tabhi main bata raha hoon … agar mein NRI show karta hun to usmein aapka PAN card mujhe nahin chahiye (It is fine, then we will show you as an NRI … I am telling you this although we are not supposed to tell it in banking … since you just asked that is why I am telling you. If I show you as an NRI then I don’t need your PAN card).” Please don’t tell this to my manager, Ahuja adds. “Hum logon ko ye batana allowed nahin hai ki customer ko ye decision do ye ye bolo (We are not allowed to give the customer this decision, tell them this and that).”

Does that mean nobody knows about the special favor you are doing for me? Ahuja: “Involved sab hain…paisa wohi ginenge…uske liye aapko bond bhi wohi denge (All are involved … only they will count the money … only they will issue you the bond for that).” Ahuja claims to have helped a lawyer to invest Rs. 25 lakh cash in this manner.

The visitor then confides in Ahuja that the money he is investing is owned by a certain politician. So, it should be safe, and, moreover, there is another Rs. 17–20 crore coming. Ahuja continues to be helpful: “To main usko doosri jagah pe bhi karwa ke doonga na. Yahaan pe jitna maximum hota hai maximum karenge…pachaas lakh tak…har saal…iske alaawa bhi aapko agar lag raha hai funds daalne hain…to mera pehchaan hai…jaise HDFC Bank hai, aur Axis Bank hai, unlog ke paas alag alag schemes hain … toh wahan pe hum log jake baat karenge (Then, I will get it invested somewhere else also. We will invest here the maximum … Rs. 50 lakh every year. Apart from it, if you say you want to invest more funds then I know people …like in HDFC Bank and Axis Bank. They have several schemes. So, we will go there and talk to them).”

But he shouldn’t rush things in an amateurish way. Ahuja replies: “Paanch chheh saal se isi mein hun to hum logon ko maaloom hai. Bangalore mein…main ek baat bataata hoon bura nahin maniyega…maximum black money hai Sir (I have been working here for the past 5–6 years. In Bangalore, I must tell you, don’t mind it, has the maximum black money).”

After a long wait, his superior, Branch Manager and Cluster Head, G. Raikar, enters and Ahuja apprises him of what the customer is looking for. Raikar: “If you don’t want to route it through your account…you said you want to put it in cash format…now that is possible, but I would need age proof document, we will have to collect your PAN card. The only thing is that we will not route it through your account. It will be in the form of cash and directly put it in the form of investment…nowhere it will be related to any of your accounts. It will be direct cash, into direct investment.”

The documents required include a passport, driving license and PAN card and address proof. This is for completing the KYC. Raikar says: “The only thing is where I can help you is you don’t have to route it through any of your accounts… The reason is because…even I have done smaller things but…the only problem is that since you are talking about a huge amount here, why I am saying you should not route it through your account is any transaction above 10 lakhs if you route it through an account it has to be reported to RBI…what I will suggest is we will have to break it down. Rather than putting in a lumpsum we will have to break it down into two three different …it can be in your wife’s name and in your name…nahin kid ke naam pe bhi ho sakta hai … haan no problem (No, it can be done in the name of your kid also, yes, no problem).”

Even parking cash is not a problem. Raikar: “Now what I can help you out is providing you with a locker where you can keep the cash…I will allot you a locker where you can keep the cash.”
Will that be big enough to keep so much cash? Raikar smiles: “Log paanch crore rakhte hain…thousand ka toh ho jayega aaraam se (People keep 5 crore …bills of 1000 will be accommodated easily)… what I understand from your requirement is that it should not be routed through any account…isliye main bol raha hoon ye safest option hai (That is why I tell you this is the safest option).”

Raikar himself suggests two plans but his subordinate reminds him that the customer does not want to show his PAN details anywhere. Raikar suggests: “PAN card nahin dena (If you don’t want to give PAN card) then I have to show you as NRI…aap baahar jaate hain (Do you go abroad)? … toh koi problem nahin hai…toh sirf passport aur photograph chahiye (Then there is no problem … then I need only your passport and a photograph).”

What if he moved jobs or went to work in some other branch? Who will look after this delicate matter? Raikar allays this fear: “Aisi koi problem nahin hai kyunki jo hum log kar rahe hain hum log daayere ke baahar nahin kar rahe hain…agar main bhi nahin hoon…koi aur…koi problem nahin hoga…aap Prudential bhi direct jaa sakte hain…kahin pe bhi kar sakte hain…koi problem nahin hai kyunki hum jo process kar rahe hain…jaise documentation …wo daayere ke andar kar rahe hain (There is no problem like that because whatever we are doing we are not doing it beyond our brief. If I am working here no longer …somebody else … there will be no problem …You can go to the Prudential direct …you can do it anywhere …there is no problem because the process we are following, like documentation, is within norms).”

S. Ahuja’s reaction to the investigation: Refuses to recall the meeting and then says he is not S. Ahuja our reporter spoke to and changed his name to say he is Ajay Sharma.


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