cobrapost - April 27, 2013

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Canara Bank, Case 3, S. S. Kumar, Divisional Manager, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

The best way, according to this senior government banker, is to put in all your illegitimate cash in savings account, and the bank will never report it

The Cobrapost reporter walks up to the desk of a senior banker at this Agra branch of Canara Bank. Without preliminaries, he comes straight to his proposition: A minister wants to invest Rs. 80 lakh.

The banker asks: “Long-term ke liye karna chahte hain (Does he want to invest for a long term).”

You are right. We want to invest it in some long-term instrument. More big money, about 5–7 crore is due in February from a deal in Greater Noida. The reporter immediately raises the stakes, and it does the trick. The senior banker politely introduces him to another senior banker who as much politely takes him to his room. There the banker promptly introduces himself and gives his visiting card.

We are face to face with none other than Divisional Manager S.S. Kumar. Our reporter promptly exchanges is phone number with Kumar. In the next moment he reiterates his proposition: The minister wants to invest some big money in a long-term scheme with guaranteed returns. The investment has to be made in three names: The minister’s wife, his frontman, our reporter himself, and the frontman’s wife. We chose a government bank for safety. If you wish we would like you to meet the minister as soon as he is back from Jaipur.
“Initial how much?” Kumar is curious to know.

Rs. 80 lakh in cash is readily lying at home. We are expecting Rs. 5–7 crore in February first week. Would you please advise us the safest way to invest our moolah?

Asks Kumar: “Fixed deposit only rakhne ka aapko (You want to invest only in fixed deposits)?”

That is ok. What about investing in insurance where there is no TDS, asks our reporter.

After thinking hard for a while, Kumar says: “Insurance actually humara utna attractive nahin hai (Our insurance is actually not that attractive) … big amount … it is better to invest in fixed deposits.” He then goes on to tell the rate of interest the client will earn on FDs, about 9 per cent.

But then there would be TDS, asks the reporter.

Replies Kumar in affirmative: “TDS katega (There will TDS).”

There will be problem for us, laments our reporter. Is there any way out he could suggest to avoid TDS.

Kumar is of little help: “Different names mein but fir bhi itna bada amount … kya karna … karna padega (In different names … but then the amount is so big … what can be done … we will have to do) because … PAN card … PAN number will be there.”

Giving PAN is not a problem but then we may be served notice by the Income Tax

Department. The reporter is not sure if is going to serve the purpose.

Reassures Kumar: “Nahin TDS katne ke baad kuch nahin hoga (Nothing like that will happen after TDS).”

But then it will be huge deduction on Rs. 5 crore, says the reporter.

Replies Kumar: “Twenty per cent.”

No, it is really a huge cut, laments our reporter.

Kumar corrects him: “Interest mein 20 per cent (20 per cent on interest).”

It is a great reprieve. So, tell us how to proceed with the investment, says our reporter. The point is we have all the money in cash.

Kumar has a solution: “But aap first account khol ke SB mein rakh dijiye … SB mein TDS katega nahin … savings bank mein aapko chaar per cent interest mil jayega (But you first open an SB account and put in the cash there … there is no TDS in SB … you will earn an interest of 4 per cent in the savings bank account).”

We never knew putting in so many crores in a savings bank account was so easy. However unbelievable it is it serves our purpose.

Excited, our reporter asks him to open three accounts.

Replies Kumar: “Haan wahi chalega … ek hi date mein … ek hi date mein kholenge … baad mein chota chota investment hai … different different (Yes, it will be done like that … we will open it on the same date… later on you can make smaller investments in different …).”

Now, it is clear that we will put in all our cash in savings bank account to route it into investment. Would you give us a big locker in February to keep Rs. 5–7 crore of hard cash?

Says Kumar: “Haan theek hai (Yes, it is ok).”

Please put in a request, urges our reporter.

Kumar asks: “Neeche branch mein chalega na (Will it be fine in other branch below)?”
We have no problem, replies the reporter.

Kumar digs out a diary and picking a phone number from the diary calls an official of some other branch.

Kumar asks the official if a big locker is available with his branch: “Sir … Namaste … Sampath Kumar … aapke paas locker … bada locker hai … boliye (Do you have a big locker … tell me) … small means … what will be size Sir … acha … then I told you … I suppose … currency … only one packet … one lakh like that … customer … has come actually … he wants to deposit also … he is sitting here.” Kumar then tells the official on the other end of the line about the proposed investment of cash and asks him how much TDS it would attract. It is about 20 per cent.

His inquiry with the official has not borne any fruit, so he calls on phone other official and asks him if his branch has a big locker available: “Sir, Sampath … Good morning! Bada locker udhar khali hai (Do you have a big locker available there) … That is big or small … Theek hai (Alright).”
Kumar will do everything for us. He works on the “Customer First” principle and believes in providing instant service.

When the reporter finds him fretting like anything to ensure a locker, our reporter decides to put the banker at ease. He tells the banker that the locker would be required in February. So, he can relax. During the course of conversation, we learn that Kumar heads 25 branches.

Obviously, what he says carries weight. The reporter tells him that when the deal is through in February, the minister has asked him to bring all the 5–7 crore directly to the bank and deposit the cash in the locker. Would he help with counting the currency notes by making a machine available then?

Reassures Kumar: “That can be done.”

In the meanwhile, one of the bankers calls him back to inform on the lockers.

Kumar on the phone: “Hello Sir … ok, ok… small … means that one packet … something can be kept … ok, ok.”

After Kumar is through with the call, our reporter tells him that the Rs.5– 7 crore we are going to get in February will be in denomination of 500. So, we need a big locker, and if a big locker is not available then he can provide two lockers.

Agreeing, Kumar says: “I will manage … Actually, locker mein rakhke… wahan se kisi ko dene ka (Actually, after keeping the money in locker you can give to anybody).”

In other words, what the Divisional Manager is suggesting is after keeping the cash, we can channelize the money into the account for investment.

Understanding the point, our reporter says that we will put in the money in the account with your bank in smaller tranches.

Says Kumar: “Okay.”

Telling him we will do as he suggests, maybe invest the cash in insurance or some other instruments, our reporter raises another point. The minister’s wife is a frequent flyer to England. Can we send some of the crores to some of her relatives in blocks of Rs. 50–60 lakh with the help of your bank.

Kumar replies: “Theek hai … ho jayega … ho jayega (Okay … it will be done … it will be done) … We will take care.”

Coming back to his suggestion of submitting PAN, Kumar says: “PAN card is the only thing … tax you have to pay … that’s all.”

We understand it. PAN will be required for opening the account, our reporter says. Hope it is not required for getting a locker.

Kumar reiterates it is required to open an account only, and when asked, assures the reporter of safety of the cash kept in the locker.

It reminds him something and he rings some of the bankers, perhaps, he has already spoken to regarding availability of the locker but doesn’t get across. After some moments, he puts down the phone and turning to the reporter says: “Locker ho jayega (Locker will be managed) that’s not a problem.”

Our reporter asks him if he would like to meet the minister. Kumar, though agreeable is not free for three days. Then, selling him the usual story of the minister getting soon about Rs. 37 crore after arm twisting a building, our reporter says do for us in way which is safe and which he has already used for other such customers.

Kumar reassures: “Definitely take care … savings mein rakha toh kuch nahin hoga … kuch nahin hoga [if you keep the money in savings account, then nothing will happen] … It will not be reflected anywhere … even income tax mein nahin jayega… but aapko interest kum milega (It will not be reported to the Income Tax department but you will get lower interest).”

We are not interested in interest, says the reporter. What we are interested in is our money is safe and becomes white.

Nodding in agreement, Kumar says: “Aap aa jana signature karke cheque katega … paisa haath mein de dega (You drop in and simply sign a cheque, we will give you the money then and there).”

Kumar is not averse to the idea of helping us invest in gold to make our money black.

The reporter again invites him to the meeting with the minister the same evening to take the deal forward and asks him to keep his superior informed about the investment. Kumar agrees and says he will inform his senior GM Sushil Verma.

Before taking his leave, the reporter reminds him of what all has been settled between them and tells him again to put in the money where nothing is deducted.

At his point Kumar reminds him: “Deposit mein rakha to ye aapka thoda ye 20 percent tax kaatega, saving mein rakha to kuch nahin hoga … kitna bhi rakhe (If you put in deposits, then you have to pay 20 per cent tax … but nothing will happen if you keep it in the savings … keep as much as you want).”

Put in our money where there is no deduction, says the reporter, so that it is beneficial for both the parties.

Kumar comes up with this assurance: “Paisa nahin katega … interest aapko chaar per cent milega (Your money will not be deducted … you will get 4 per cent interest) … we’ll not report anywhere also … kuch bhi nahin (nothing) … jahan bhi reflection ho wahan (wherever it comes to reflection).”

We have no reason to not believe when a divisional manager is making us a promise that he will not report our affair to the appropriate authority. We are doubly sure now that our crores of black money has found a safe place with Canara bank with Divisional Manager Kumar acting as its custodian and it will come back to us squeaky clean. What else one need.

Satisfied thus the reporter comes back to the desk of the banker who had introduced him to Divisional Manager S.S. Kumar. He asks the banker if he should meet their GM. The banker replies in negative. Our meeting with Kumar is sufficient.

Suddenly, he finds Kumar at his back who asks him: “Can you provide the number and the name of the mantri (minister).” It is this curiosity which brought Kumar there again.

The reporter reminds him why he can’t share the name of his master. You know his identity has to be kept secret. That is why the whole banking affair has to be done in the name of his wife Vandana.

Appreciating the point, Kumar says: “Theek hai (It is ok).”

The divisional manager then goes on to reconfirm what he had suggested and what he had promised us: “Saving mein koi dikkat nahin (There is no problem in savings) … we are assuring … locker is done … locker done … locker ka just one lakh two lakh deposit karein (deposit just 1 lakh, 2 lakh of the locker).”

We are doubly reassured, Sir, says our reporter, and will do as you suggest. Kumar goes on to say that we can open a savings bank account with his branch and he will make the locker available in other branch.

The meeting thus comes to end with both the bankers and our reporter promising to take it forward in the presence of the minister, possibly, the same evening and Kumar asks his subordinate to stay in touch with the guest.

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