cobrapost - April 27, 2013

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Dhanlaxmi Bank, Case 1: P. D. Mathur, Regional Head, Trade Finance Operation; Y. Kumar, Branch Operation Manager, Centre Delhi

Both bankers are initially not so cooperative, but slowly open up to reveal tricks they are adept at. From the use of dummy PAN card to laundering money through gold purchases and resultant sales, all seem within their natural realm of their activity, if they get to trust you a bit

The Cobrapost journalist walks into this branch of Dhanlaxmi Bank and to the desk of Regional Head (Trade Finance Operation) P. D. Mathur. He states the purpose of his visit: A minister intends to invest a handsome amount in the long term. It has to be done in three names: me, my wife and the minister’s wife.

We reject the idea of FD as it would attract TDS for apparent reason.

Mathur suggests recurring deposit: “Recurring deposits mein koi bhi TDS nahin katata (There is no TDS in recurring deposits).”

How much can we put in recurring deposits?

“Jitne bhi daaliye … aap … kitna hai (Whatever you want to put in … how much do you have)?”

Rs. 60 lakh, says our reporter. More, about Rs. 5–7 crore, is expected in March. We raise the stakes.

Mathur knows now what he is getting into: “Acha toh badi investment karna chahte hain (Ok, so you want to make a big investment).”

We suggest that we should sit separately and not in the open office.

Mathur accepts he does not have a very good idea on the investment scene. He leaves, and returns with Branch Operations Manager Y. Kumar. We move into a conference room.

Kumar asks us if we have relationship with any other bank. We want guaranteed returns, we say. Kumar is sort of dismissive to tell us only FDs can give us guaranteed returns.

We turn to Mathur. What about recurring deposits? Would that be a good option?

Kumar says we would have to show even that in our books, so does Mathur.

What about insurance? We proffer.

Kumar asks: “Aap kitna amount … lagbhag ek idea dijiye (About how much amount you [want to invest] … give me an idea).”

About one and a half crore or two, we tell him. We are expecting Rs. 5–7 crore some time soon. Kumar takes a while before answering.

However, both the bankers say we would have to show this much of investment either in insurance or in FDs in our books. There’s no other way out.

We have hit a logjam!

Meanwhile, Kumar gets on the phone to his insurance expert but he draws a blank. It’s not possible to invest without PAN.

The bankers get ready to go. But we try to prod, create a way. Can we do it through an account?

Says Kumar: “Account ke through kar lo … kuch bhi … koi dikkat nahin (Do it through the account, no problem).”

Kumar tries to explain the procedure but stops suddenly and wants to meet our CA. He walks out of the conference room and escorts us into a smaller chamber. We exchange numbers there.

There is something in the tone of the banker that urges us to keep up the pressure.

He clears a lot pending work before he turns his head and seeks to know: “Mantriji kaun sa hai (Who is this minister).”

We avoid this and as he gets back, we remind him not to disclose any information.

Kumar assures: “Chinta na kare … business mein jo dealing hoti hai na business ki tarah hi hoti hai … business secrecy toh hum … being a banker samajhte hain (Don’t worry … in business dealings are done business like … being a banker I understand what business secrecy is).”

A small lecture on human psychology on attachment with his money follows, while we talk about how trust grows between a banker and a client. We bluntly ask him tell us a way out.

Slowly, a convoluted scheme unfolds, as Kumar starts to open up: “PAN card ki kahani yeh hai …. dekho PAN card kitno ke hain aur kiske hain … apne naam se toh generally hote bhi nahin hain … koi nam se agar man lo hoti hai toh unmein sub mein agar PAN hai toh ek baar PAN number ke saath aap deposit toh kitna bhi kar sakte ho … toh koi problem nahin hoti … aur deposit karne ke baad agar aap cheque se dete hain to insurance mein kitna bhi laga sakte hain koi problem nahin … yani ki ghuma firake ho jayega (The story of the PAN card is like this … many people have PAN cards and in whose name they have … generally they don’t have it in their names … and once there is a PAN card with whatever name … then you can deposit as much as you want … and after the deposit if you give it by cheque then you can invest any amount in insurance … by hook or by crook it is taken care of).”

What the Dhanlaxmi banker is suggesting is indicative of making the investment of our huge unaccounted cash with the help of a Benami PAN.

But there is more option in store for us: “Doosri cheez hoti hai gold … gold ka option hai (The second thing is gold … we have the option of gold).”

We are ready to buy gold as it is delivered physically and carrying it is easier. We push the envelope. Tell us the price of 5 kg of gold.

“Usmein PAN chahiye (That will require PAN),” Kumar says.

We have got the big picture by now. We would get one dummy (benami) PAN you have been talking about. We will ask our CA.

Kumar instructs: “Bata dena unko ye in teen cheeze ki is is tareeke se hota hai (Tell him these three things that it [investment] happens in these ways).”

But where do we sell the gold?

Kumar says with confidence: “Kahin becho … certificate milega aapko … tax ke saath fir milega.

(Sell it wherever you want to … you will get a certificate, with tax).” The only hitch is there might be some difference in the sale price of gold.

We say we are interested in laundering the money, and the rate difference is not too much of a headache.

“Bilkul thik kaha (You have said it right),” Kumar agrees.

We get down to brass tacks and our reporter seeks to know the price of 5 kg gold, inclusive of tax. Kumar seeks time. But we are eager to hurry it up.

Kumar comforts us now: “Lekin wo aapka paise se nizaat mil jayegi (But you will be able to rid yourself of the cash).” We agree.

He elaborates: “Use hum thikane laga kar aapko uski receipt dekar, bill dekar ke, sub kuch dekar, delivery baad mein kar denge, do chaar paanch din mein kyunki wo arrange karna parta hai na … 5 kg gold mein rakh kar toh baitha nahin hoon (I will fix it [the cash] … give the receipt … give you the bill … give you everything … will deliver it two, four or five days later … we don’t sit here with 5 kg gold).”

Meanwhile, we tell him more big money is in the pipeline. The process now becomes critical. Do we give you cash or do we route it through accounts, we ask.

Kumar says it will depend on the number of accounts we want to go with. We say that we will go and arrange the dummy PAN cards.

But the banker has other ideas: “Account kholne ka kya zaroorat hai? Main baat kar loonga cash mein kaise karenge ye log (What is the need for opening the accounts? I will talk to them how it will be done in cash).”

Kumar explains us with an example: “Aap Ram Kumar, Shyam Kumar koi bhi hain … aap aye … kahe ki mujhe gold do … humne aap se document liye … document ke saath PAN card diya … kagaz liya jama diya (Say you are Ram Kumar or Shyam Kumar … you come … tell me give me gold … I take documents from you, take the PAN … deposit all papers).” And the banker delivers the gold physically with bill, which means there is no need to open accounts.

Kumar also suggests who we should sell it to: “Tanishq lete hain bindaas humare sikke … wo bhi DD se … kyunki humara certified hota hai na … untouched (Tanishq people buy our coins straightaway … [they would pay you] that too through DD … because ours is certified … untouched).” There is no tie-up between the two organisations, but the gold sold by Dhanlaxmi enjoys trust.

He has more suggestions on how we should go about buying gold: “Is cheez ke liye main aapko bataoon … itna chota hai … chota in the sense … isko aap bilkul dus–dus lakh mein karo … chalees–chalees lakh mein karo (I will tell you one more thing about this … this should be small … small in the sense that you do it [buy gold] in chunks of Rs. 10 lakh each … Rs. 40 lakh at a time).” We say we would buy for Rs. 50 lakh.

“Simple,” is the banker’s reply.

He urges us to try out his method: “Kuch nahin … aap ek baar karke dekho … maan lijiye 30 lakh rupaye ka gold le liye … usko kahin bhi bech karke ek baar dekho (It’s nothing … do it once and see … say you buy Rs. 30 lakh worth of gold … sell it and see what your returns are).” There would be no problem for the gold is certified and you would get a certificate declaring you have paid the tax on its purchase.

Mathur comes around and we tell him that we have decided to go for the gold. The two bankers clarify why they had avoided our questions before.

Kumar explains: “Samajhni parti hai cheezein … ekdum se koi bhi aaye … main wo karoonga … kya karein? Account mein daal do … dheere dheere batein khulti hain (You have to understand things … somebody walks in … says I will do this [invest] … what should we do? Put it in the account … things unfold gradually).”

Having established the trust, we broach another of our wish-list. Could the bank allot a big locker to the minister’s wife?

Kumar assures to give us three lockers instead as the big one is not available: “De denge …. bada toh nahin de paoonga is waqt …. chota de paoonga … chote ek ki jagah do doonga … do ki jagah teen de doonga (Will give you … there are no big one at this time … will give you not one but two small lockers … or even three).”

We explain the bankers that we would keep all our crores first in the lockers and then go into different investments.

“Sub chalta rahta (Everything is working),” he says, smiling.

We ask for the money to be counted, and he agrees.

Before leaving, we present the last of our wish-list.

The minister’s wife frequently goes to England. Could we transfer some of the crores to be kept in the lockers with your bank to somebody there? Our reporter seeks the banker’s help.

“Uska ilaz bhi bata denge … kara denge … bahut bari cheez hai nahin … bahut choti cheez hai … wo kya hai ki Euro mein convert ho kar ke chala jayega (I will tell you the remedy for that too … it is not a big deal … it’s a small thing … it will go after converting it into Euros).”

We are friends now, all trusted. We smile and shake hands as we part.

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