cobrapost - April 27, 2013

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Indian Bank, Case 1, R. Manohar, Assistant General Manager, South Delhi; Dr. P. H. Prasad, Orthopedic Surgeon, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh; Dr. S. Sake, Minister for Primary Education, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad; Vasu, former Andhra cop, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

A banker, ready to launder our ill-gotten money, an orthopedic surgeon who is looking for big funds for his real estate project in Tirupati, a minister who stands guarantee for safety of our investment of black money in this project, and finally a hawala operator who would help deliver our cash anytime, anywhere we wish. This is a tale with many twists and turns, involving two capital cities, Delhi and Hyderabad
The Cobrapost journalist casually walks into the branch of Indian Bank in an institutional area in South Delhi, known for its proximity to a world-heritage, pre-Mogul monument established by the slave dynasty of India. He has to wait patiently for quite some time before he gets into the cabin of Assistant General Manager R. Manohar. Pleasantries over, our reporter states the purpose of his visit: He is there to discuss some handsome investment for a long term.
The banker, in his distinctive Southern accent, curtly asks: “Like? Kya deta hai (Like? What you are going to give [invest])?”
Immediately, Rs. 1 crore. More money is due in March first week. The owner of the money is some known politician and it has to be done in the names of my wife and the politician’s wife.
We are related by marriage. Our reporter rattles it off in a single breath. And when we say we preferred a government bank to those private ones, which promise you moon but deliver you nothing, it brings a broad smile to the senior government banker.
Manohar asks: “Kuch aapka accounts hai idhar (Do you have some accounts here).” The discussion opens up.
No, we don’t, says our reporter, but would love to have one.
“You will deposit in the form of cash or cheque?” asks Manohar.
We tell him that the investment is to be done in cash, and that is the problem.
Manohar has a quick solution to it: “Cash hai toh ek kaam karo … kitna jan hai family mein (If it’s cash then do one thing … how many people are there in the family)?” He implies multiple accounts can be opened in different names to deposit the money.
There are three of us. If needed, we can bring on board a caretaker of our house, a trusted man.
Advising against involving in an outsider, Manohar asks us about the source of the fund.
Now, tell us how a minister should reveal the source of his funds, says our reporter.
After thinking hard, while beating his table with a pen, for quite some time, the banker says: “Kuch sona khareedo (Buy some gold).”
We are quite agreeable to the idea and ask him if we should buy gold physically.
The banker responds: “Physically khareedo (Buy it physically).”
We again agree and ask him to get us the gold.
After thinking hard again in his typical style, Manohar suggests how we should buy gold: “Ek kaam karo … abhi … kal se open karo …daily paanch lakh paanch lakh ek ek account mein daalo … ok … aur next day paanch paanch lakh ke chaar chaar hi daalo … nine nine lakh ek mein daalo … usmein 250 grams aath lakh kuch hote hai …ek ek account mein 250, 250 karo …fir ek locker chahiye toh de dega … locker mein dump kar do (Do one thing … open [the accounts] tomorrow itself … put 5 lakh in each account … Ok … and the next day, instead of 5 lakh, put 4 lakh only [into the accounts] … put 9 lakh in each one [this way] … 250 grams of gold is worth 8 lakh or something … buy 250 grams (of gold) from each of the accounts … after that, if you need a locker, I will give you that … dump it [gold] in the locker).”
Gold has high gravity and doesn’t require much space. You can dump kilos of yellow metal into it. Says a smiling Manohar: “Ek chota locker mein paanch pachaas kilo rakh sakte hain … saara mein … pehle paanch paanch daalo… baad mein chaar chaar daalo … sabhi ka PAN card hai (You can keep 5–50 kilos [of gold] in a small locker … first you put in 5 lakh in all [accounts] … then you put in 4 lakh … Do you all have PAN card).”
We sure have, says the reporter, but it might get linked to our other bank accounts.
Manohar assures us: “Doosre wale bank ka link toh nahin karega … but … Adhaar card hai (It won’t get linked to other banks … But do you have an Adhaar card)?”
Our reporter offers to submit a copy of passport, to which Manohar says: “Passport sub … Adhaar card de dena … PAN card mat daalo … catch ho jayega (Passport and all … give the Adhaar card … don’t give PAN card … they can catch it).”
When ask if we could invest our money in some long-term insurance schemes, Manohar asks us how many children we have, and we come to know his bank has a tie-up with HDFC Standard Life.
This is what Manohar suggests: “Ek kaam karo … usmein … ek ek ka naam mein teen lakh chaar lakh ka insurance ka kara dega … children ka naam mein kara dega … nomination unko kara dega … account open kar do… account open kar do … account open kar ke ismein paise daal do … inse DD hum aapko insurance kara … (Do one thing … get an insurance for Rs. 3–4 lakh in the name of each child … will put their [parents’] names in nomination … open account … open account [with us] … after opening account, put the money in them … will get DD from there to get insurance done).”
We now know the crux of the process: All our money would be slipped into our bank accounts and from there the banker would convert it into demand drafts to invest in insurance. This is how all our money would get the colour of legitimacy.
We ask him if the returns would come in white, by cheque.
Replies the senior banker: “Cheque se dus saal baad white ho ke aayega (It will come in white by cheque after 10 years).”
Manohar gives us more education on how we should open four accounts to route our minister’s money into insurance and how we would get guaranteed returns on our investment, to the tune of 50 per cent of the sum assured.
Our reporter asks him if the money would be routed through the accounts into investment or invested directly.
Bang comes the reply from the expert banker: “Accounts open kar do …usmein nikaal ke DD unko de denge …. March ka pehle … 30th March mein close kar do …1st April mein dubara open kar do (Open the accounts … we’ll make DD and hand it over to them [the insurers] … before March [ending] … close the accounts on 30th March … open another account on 1st April).”
Appreciating the idea our reporter implores the banker to not let a word out.
Swearing to secrecy, Manohar says: “Nahin, nahin karega (No, no … will not do [disclose it]).”
After telling us what documents to submit, Manohar has no problem in accepting hard cash:
“Cash hum … jama kar do …cash le lenge … koi baat nahin …usmein bhi form mein ek PAN number kisi ka daal do … hum nahin poochega kiska daal raha hai …hum ko toh koi proof ka nahi maang hai (Deposit the cash … we’ll take the cash .. no issues … put in the form [pay-in slip] someone else’s PAN number … we won’t ask whose PAN you are putting in … we do not demand such proof).”
Encouraged at the willingness of the banker to do all the dirty work for us, we ask him to send someone to the minister’s residence to complete the formalities the same evening or the next morning, and the banker agrees.
Manohar has more options to offer: “Ismein RD open kar dega chaar account … monthly kuch account aap kaisa cash jama cash jama kar do …. kuch bhi jama kardo … koi bhi tees hazaar tak evidence ka zaroorat nahi (Will open four RD accounts … you can deposit any amount of cash in those accounts on monthly basis … no evidence is required for up to Rs. 30,000).” Below Rs. 50,000, PAN is not required, he adds.
We couldn’t say no to this monthly saving ERM plan as there is no TDS on our investment.
The suggestion has a purpose for if we deposit in these RD accounts Rs. 40,000 every month, we can use these cumulative deposits of Rs. 5 lakh in each account to pay the premium of the policies we would buy. Explains Manohar: “Forty thousand chaar RD open karo … four lakh eighty ye hota … interest bees hazaar … paanch lakh banega … ye close karo ye premium pay karo … kaisa aya? … Hum monthly saving karke usmein payment kiya (Open four RD accounts of Rs. 40,000 each …it comes to Rs. 4,80,000 … [include] Rs. 20000 of interest … it will come to a total of Rs. 5 lakh … close the accounts … pay this premium … [they may ask] how the money came? [Tell them] … we did monthly saving and paid the premium from it).”
What an investor-friendly soul our banker is, equipped as he is with numerous ideas, and we have not seen them fully yet.
Manohar advises us to close the deal in a day or two and close the accounts before the fiscal year ends. He would send one of his staff members to meet the minister and do the needful. Just then, a senior staff member walks in.
Instructing the staff member to go to the minister’s house, he tells him in detail the task he has to undertake. The staff member would complete the account opening formalities then and there and when the client brings in Rs. 20 lakh in cash he would have to convert the same into four DDs to invest in four HDFC Crest policies. Then there would be four RD accounts to be opened.
Manohar even calls in Vijay Kumar, another banker, to our presence and instructs him in the same manner about what needs to be done and how it has to be done.
Now, we would have two bankers at our door at the appointed time to help our minister move forward!
When we suggest the staff members not to disclose their identities to the guards posted at the minister’s residence, Manohar assures us everything would be done in secrecy.
Could the banker suggest some other option for conversion of some big amount? We now prod him to dig as deep as the banker is willing to allow us.
Manohar is quick to reply with a smile: “Aaapko aur ek raasta humko aapko confidentially batayega … confidentially batayega … pakka 100 per cent pakka fixed return (I’ll tell you one more method confidentially … will tell you about it confidentially … [You’ll get] 100 per cent fixed returns) …you can even take your return in black.”
No problem Sir.
Our reporter is rather ecstatic to know what the banker is up to, and raising the stakes he says we are expecting Rs. 10 crore in March.
Now comes out the big revelation.
Manohar tells us that he can get our big money invested with one of the real estate developers back in his home state. He knows the developer from close quarters, and if we invest in his real estate project, we could get back all our black money with an assured interest in white, by cheque. The deal is simple: the developer would give us the papers of a property worth Rs. 15 crore, registered and with agreement, which would be returned after he fulfills his part of obligation. The other party would accept all our black money and would pay the interest part by check, that is, in white.
The builder has association with the powerful, as Manohar claims: “Wo bhi high … minister level pe link-up hai … powerful … one two ministers hai state ka … unka link-up hai … unka ek project mil raha hai …50 crores ka (The fellow does have link-ups at high, minister level … there are one or two powerful ministers of the state … he does have link-ups with them … he is getting a project from them worth Rs. 50 crore).”
We won’t mind investing Rs. 5–10 crore in that project, says our reporter.
However, Manohar warns us against any duplicity.
The reporter gives him his word that the papers of the property given to us would be dutifully returned as and when the builder is ready with the returns in white.
But can this builder be trusted?
Manohar claims: “Unka direct links hai … one and two state mein (He has direct links [with] … number one and two in the state [government]).” The real estate developer, we come to know, is well-linked to the top political executive of Andhra Pradesh.
We now realize that our investigation is entering a new level altogether, and there is more to it than meets the eye.
After our chit-chat session hovers around the son of an ex-chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, we come back to the matters of black money.
Manohar says: “I came to know one more thing in the conversation between you and me, so your black money will be white, koi agent aisa hai, idhar ka amount idhar hi rakhiyega udhar ka instruction ek hi ko deta hai toh fund mil jata hai (there are some agents … they will keep the amount on this side … issue instruction to one party on the other side, then the fund is delivered).”
Is it really possible? Could we send money abroad through this conduit? Our reporter asks.
Manohar says: “Kidhar bhi India mein (Anywhere in India).”
We would like to send some money to England, we say, this way of hawala.
But Manohar is of little help.
We would trouble you in March only when the big money arrives, we say. What is the use of keeping all our crores in lockers? But the fellow who does this for us should be trustworthy.
Manohar is willing to help and asks us: “Paisa aap de sakte hain aap Tirupati mein delivery is terah kar sakte hain … kaisa karega (Can you deliver the cash at Tirupati … can you do it)?”
We now know the government banker is part of a hawala ring run by certain operatives in Tirupati who he knows very well and wants to direct us to them.
It would be a great if it could be collected here itself, we tell Manohar.
Manohar gives a good thought before we put him at ease by telling him to discuss it with his source, and we would pay upfront whatever the charges are.
Our foray into this secretive world of hawala operatives takes a break as a customer walks in to meet Manohar. The banker, however, seeks some time from the visitor, and as soon as the fellow takes a seat, we resume.
The minister’s wife often goes to England. Could you help us send Rs. 40–50 lakh there, a couple of times, through someone you know and is a trusted fellow?
Manohar says: “Wo kar sakte hain (We can do that).”
We can trust both you and your bank and entrust you with charge of our crores, we say appreciating the banker’s friendly approach.
To allay all our apprehensions, Manohar assures: “We work with principles.”
Please employ only the method which is safe and which you have already helped others with.
Our reporter seeks an assurance from the banker.
Not getting us, the banker refers to our proposed investment with his bank.
We say no we are talking of sending our money through hawala.
To reassures us, Manohar proposes to take us to Tirupati to meet the fellow. He would book the flight tickets for both, via Chennai. Once we reach Tirupati, we would get all details of the real estate project. The developer has various business interests and has support of the government. Manohar reveals that in order to complete the project, they need a certain amount of black money.
Asking him to invite the real estate developer to Delhi, we tell him to meet the minister first before we take the talks to the next level. The banker agrees and for the first time, seeks to know who our minister is.
To win our trust, he brags about his achievement as a banker: “Kal subah humein thousand crores aaya … hum ek hi branch mein five thousand crores ka business kiya (Only yesterday morning … I got 1000 crore … from this single branch we did a business of Rs. 5000 crore).” The business won’t affect him. He would remain the same person.
We are impressed.
What is there in knowing his name, we tell the banker, when you are set to meet him in person.
As the banker asks us to seal the investment deal with his bank, we assure him the same as soon as the minister gives his nod after we all meet. Satisfied, we take leave of the banker and come out of the bank.
The story doesn’t end here, however. There is more in store.
More eager than us to take forward the deal, Manohar twice sets up meeting with Dr. P. H. Prasad, the man from Tirupati, an orthopedic surgeon by profession, a couple of days later, first in the morning and then the next evening.
We meet the banker and the surgeon at the Ashok Hotel and discuss our proposition in a frank manner and in more detail, in the comforts of the luxury hotel.
Manohar suggests another way to make the money white. He says: “Hum aapko bank guarantee bhi dene ke liye taiyaar hai (We are ready to even give you a bank guarantee).”
We don’t want a bank guarantee, we say, as it may invite trouble for us.
Manohar makes it clear that the transaction against the property won’t be registered.
Prepare a modicum of structure of the project, covering all the details involving the property in question, we tell the duo, and we would close the deal only after looking at the property and conducting our own checks.
When the banker enquires about our minister, we tell him that he has flown to Canada and more funds might materialize as a result of the visit.
Manohar is quick to say: “Kisi bhi transaction mein we are comfortable (We are comfortable with any sort of transaction).”
We would start with Rs. 25 crore, we say, and assure our audience that if this went well, we would put in more big money. As for the property, we would enter into an agreement for only 11 months as the election are due in 2014 and in case we need money we can readily have it. We have told the minister that the money would be collected from here itself.
A beaming Manohar tells us: “Hum abhi aane ke time reconfim kiya idhar se pick up ho jata (Before coming here I got it reconfirmed it [cash] would be picked up here itself).”
The hawala operator the banker has had a word with would charge us Rs. 9–10 lakh to collect the money from us in Delhi and get it delivered to the party. We happily agree, and tell Dr. Prasad the hawala operative would collect Rs. 25 crore here in Delhi, while we would be with him there at Tirupati.
Agrees Dr. Prasad: “Wo collect karega … wahin pe humko deliver kar dega (the fellow would collect [the cash] here … it will be delivered to us there itself).”
After we pay the operator his cut, we say, our responsibility would be over, then.
Both agree, and it is as clear as the morning sun that both the banker and his friend from Tiruputi are very much part of this murky world of hawala, with all its sinister dimensions as our investigation would reveal. And we are going to meet a minister in Hyderabad House in Delhi itself that the doctor from Tirupati would take us to.
After talking some more sweet nothings, we in a very circuitous manner explain them it would be in order of things if they could produce some big shot to stand guarantee on their behalf that our money would be safe. You know we are now investing in other state, where we don’t know anybody. This is just a ploy to get to know if the duo had the patronage of political bigwigs as they claimed.
Appreciating our point, Prasad asks our reporter to come along to meet the minister in Hyderabad. After meeting the minister, there they would fly to Tirupati.
We thought we would meet the minister at Andhra Bhawan in Delhi itself. We were wrong. But it won’t be possible to leave for Hyderabad to meet the minister at such short notice.
The reporter seeks some time, and as the discussion moves on, he seeks to know who the ministers are so that he could inform his master the minister about them as going to stand as guarantors.
Prasad writes on a piece of paper the names of the bigwigs he is going take us to. One among them is Dr. S. Sake, Minister of Primary Education with the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Our discussion moves on to the Andhra state politics and the Jagan factor in coming polls. When both Dr. Sake and Manohar insist we fly to Hyderabad the very next day, we say we would definitely but not the next day.
Our meeting with Manohar and Prasad finally comes to an end, with a word to stay in touch.
The next evening we are again invited and meet R. Manohar and Dr. Prasad in Ashok Hotel. After getting some insight into his personal and political life, we talk about trust in the business. We say when it comes to money it is very difficult to trust people. It is only logical for us to seek guarantee from the senior government banker, in case someone betrays us, and if they can get us a minister to stand guarantee it will help us seal the deal.
In a gust of elation, Prasad claims to be very close to the chief minister of his home state, and even drops the name of a famous Telugu film-star-turned-politician, with whom he shares a close bond.
We also come to know the medico and banker are related by marriage. Manohar vouches for Dr. Prasad: “He is having highest connections with all the ministers.”
Prasad reassures us: “You come to Tirupati … first, you see if you are really satisfied … you need to find that we are correct, then only we start … agar kuch problem ho gaya to property aapke name par hai (if a problem crops up then the property is in your name).”
We tell Prasad that holding the property in the minister’s name might pose a risk. Then there is hard cash at our home, and needs to be invested before we get into trouble. We have already kept Rs. 25 lakh sealed in small packets to ensure easy transportation. Everything has been finalized and what all we need is some surety.
Manohar tells our reporter that he is looking forward to an investment of Rs. 25 crore from us. Don’t worry if need be we would invest more than Rs. 25 crore, we assure the banker.
Avers Manohar: “50 bhi hoga … koi problem nahi hai (Even if it is Rs. 50 crore … there is no problem).”
The deal is simple. The returns, as promised, would be delivered to us sans delay. Also, if we decide to sell the property, the money would be given to us in white, through cheque. Moreover, we would earn an interest on our investment.
The banker interjects to say: “Bees pachees crore ka property khareedo …usmein white de do … teen chaar crore … baaki black mein (Buy a property worth Rs. 20–25 crore … give us Rs. 3–4 crore in white … [give] the rest in black).”
We try to persuade Prasad to either involve the film star-turned-politician or a minister in this transaction just to assure us that we are dealing with right, trusted people. If things go as planned, we may invest hundreds of crores with them in not too distant a future. Now, our minister can’t afford to hold back all the money for more than four weeks; therefore, the cash should be delivered to you as soon as possible.
We dangle the carrot to lure them into committing what we want, so that we are able to unearth this racket in all its dimensions.
Manohar assures: “Zyada se zyada dus din ke andar wo ho jayega (It will be done in ten days, maximum).”
Involving a minister in this deal, we surmise, would help in case construction pulls to a halt. Understanding our point, Prasad reassures us on this count boasting of his closeness to the high and mighty such as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Prasad suggests us to visit Hyderabad and see ourselves if what he claims is true: “Mera kya hai … kitna hai … mera naam kaisa hai minister ke saath … ke poora aapko maloom karna hai na so fir (What a name I have there … what influence I wield … what name I have with the ministers … you need to find out everything) … just by looking at me … you can’t trust me … you have to know how much close I am to the ministers there.”
Manohar too swears by what the doctor claims and asks us to repose trust in him. We come to know that Prasad can help us launder money to the tune of Rs. 30 crore. Manohar asserts: “Is ke aage jaane ke time … jo aap bola … sau, do sau, teen sau … jo chahiye India mein bolne ka .. hum kara denge (At the time of going beyond that, like you said … Rs. 100, 200, 300 [crore], tell us what you want in India … we will deliver the goods).”
As our discussion moves back to money laundering, we wonder how does Prasad convert black money into white? A property is never registered, we learn, at its market value, and when one registers a property at government rates that much money becomes white.
This is why people with deep pockets invest in property: To impart the colour of legitimacy to a big chunk of their wealth.
Does that mean that our name would appear in the records, asks the reporter?
Prasad assures: “Here, we don’t register…if you are taking the plot…somebody is buying…I am investing … so you register … I will only give money.”
This is how benami deals in real estate are conducted.
This means there would be no mention of our minister’s name in the records of the deal. All we have to do is pay the money and reap the benefits. Now, Prasad agrees to arrange a meeting with some top ministers in Hyderabad.
We ask Prasad how the money for the deal would be collected from us.
Replies Prasad casually: “Wo hawala se ho jayega (That will be done by hawala).”
As the meeting draws to a close, we seek confirmation on our returns. We would earn Rs. 3 crore in interest on our investment of Rs. 25 crore, Prasad assures us, and 50 per cent of our returns would be paid back in white, by cheque.
On that note our reporter takes their leave, and we decide to visit Hyderabad.
Over to Hyderabad Now
Our reporter receives a red carpet welcome when he arrives in Hyderabad and is ferried about in swanky SUVs, treated someone like a royal. Dr. Prasad has flown down to Hyderabad from
Tirupati with a relative and meets our reporter at the airport itself.
We are first taken to a very senior minister in Andhra Pradesh Government. He too stood guarantee for the deal between us and Dr. Prasad. However, the conversation could not be taped for some technical reasons.
From here we now proceed to meet to the next big fish in the pond: Vasu who claims to be an ex-Andhra cop and to have had a stint with CBI’s Anti-Corruption Branch. Vasu has a plush office in High-Tech City of Hyderabad. A few moments into conversation with him makes it clear that Vasu is a big-time hawala racketeer who boasts of his contacts with the high and the mighty of the cyber city.
Pleasantries over, we all get down to talking business. While Vasu and Dr. Prasad are talking in native language, Telugu, on our deal, Prasad suddenly turns to our reporter to say: “Ek hi baar transfer nahin karna … ek one crore one crore aisa kare toh easy rehta (Do not transfer all the money in one go … it will be easy if we do it like a crore at a time).”
Vasu intercepts: “Kitna din ke andar chahiye … transaction (In how many days you want to do the transaction).”
It depends on our friend Dr. Prasad, we tell him. Engaging Vasu in conversation, we try to dig out some information about the main kingpin of this racket.
Although Vasu won’t let anything out, he nonetheless gives us glimpse of the scale this ring runs on when he says: “Humara China jaata hai har mahina …humara office hai China mein, Italy mein … we import all construction material so humaara zyada amount waise hi jaata hai … idhar local bhi karte hain …Chennai ka Hyderabad ka karta rehta humara (Our stuff is sent to China every month … we have offices in China, in Italy … we import all construction material so most of our amount [of money] is sent in this manner only … we do local [transfers] as well … we keep doing [transferring money] to and fro Chennai and Hyderabad).”
So how would the cash be collected, asks the reporter?
Replies Vasu: “Naam batayega kisko dena hai Delhi mein …wo log aayega aapke paas …wo log leke chala jayega … aap jake diya toh bhi parwah nahi (Will tell you the name [of the person] to whom you will give [cash] … they will come to you and take away the cash … it won’t be a problem even if you go to them and give [cash]).”
Our next question is: How would we get the confirmation?
Prasad cuts in: “Udhar aap denge … idhar hum lenge (There you will give … here we will receive).”
What Vasu claims reassures us: “Ye toh regular hota hai humara abhi bhi jaa raha hai fir abhi cash hai kuch 15–20 lakh hai abhi ja raha hai … ye toh daily rehta hai … mahine mein humara transaction China ka 10, 12 crore ka rehata hai … wahi karte hai (We do this regularly … right now we are sending Rs. 15–20 lakh cash … we do this daily … our monthly transaction for China is about Rs. 10–12 crore … that’s what we do).”
Vasu tells us the hawala operator he works through owns a company in Hyderabad, with five branches, and has contacts as far as in the United States and United Kingdom.
“He is master in this,” says Vasu. “Yeh local wala hai … Marwadi hai … ye financially well sound hai (He is from among the locals … is a Marwadi … he is financially well [sic] sound).”
The operator conducts his dubious activities in utter secrecy. So much so that even Prasad has never met him: “Unko main nahi dekha (I haven’t seen him).”
Adds Vasu: “Baat bhi nahin hue … achche se kaam code pe chalta hai … aapko maaloon hai wo uska kisko dena hai … usko handover … aapko bhi naam bolneki zaroorat nahin … falaana jagah mein jaana kewal cash lena … bus le lete hain … yahan confirmation aa jaata hai … hum de dete hain (We don’t even talk … we work very well using codes … you come to know whom you have to give [the money] … handover it to him .. you don’t have to tell him any name either … you just have to go to a certain place and handover the cash … they will take it … we get the confirmation here … we deliver the money [to the party]).”
Slipping into a lighter mood, Vasu talks about his career as a policeman and claims to be friends with a number of ministers: “Aadha ministers doctor sahab ka friends hai baaki aadha mera friends hai … city ministers jitna bhi hai mera friends hai (Half the ministers are Dr. [Prasad] sahib’s friends … the rest are my friends … all the ministers in this city are my friends).”
Prasad now takes us to Dr. S. Sake, the Minister for Primary Education and Adult Education in the Andhra Pradesh Government.
After waiting for a long time at the minister’s residence, we finally meet Sake and, not so surprisingly, the minister is all praise for the doctor: “Nice guy you know … trusted person … and hard worker … then a disciple of Lord Venkateshwara [the reigning deity of Tirupati], basically … he believe in God only … that is his basic strength … don’t worry, we are with the project, don’t worry.”
This is what we are looking for.
Happy, we too have a proposition for the minister: Would he be interested in working in partnership with us.
The minister doesn’t disappoint us: “This is the first time I see you … you see me … let we [sic] meet twice or thrice … then … I am a man who [does] not believe in money … I believe in friendship and humans.”
Well said, Sir, we say.
In the bonhomie of the moment, we ask him if he would stand as the guarantor in this deal.
The minister assures: “We are with the project … don’t worry.”
When we ask the minister if half the money, out of Rs. 25 crore we would invest in Dr. Prasad’s project, would be returned by cheque, in other words, would become white, Sake the minister assures us: “Ya, no problem … don’t worry … once or twice I will discuss with all the people with that project, and I will talk with you.”
Sake volunteers to take the onus of fulfilling their part of obligation in this real estate deal with Dr. Prasad: “You don’t worry Sir … whatever the conditions … we will honestly try to fulfill them.”
Our reporter gets the minister to talk with “Swamy,” a fictitious godman whose advice is the last word for our equally fictitious minster. Soon after the call, Sake promises to take forward the talks on a possible partnership with us on his visit to Delhi within the next 10 days. Then, reassuring us again on the proposed deal, the minister leaves.
Come another day. Our reporter meets with the Vasu again, to get more leads on the hawala racket he is part of.
As we hit on our conversation with Vasu, we tell him our responsibility would be over once the money is collected by his men from Delhi. Vasu says in a reassuring manner: “Once it is handed over, aapka khatam … zimmedaari ho gaya aapka … jo bhi deal kar rahe hain uska zimmedaari hai (Once it is handed over, your part is done … your responsibility is over … whoever is making the deal, it is their responsibility) … they will take care of it.”
In a bid to test the reach of the hawala kingpin, our reporter tells Vasu that the minister’s wife wants to send abroad some money. Could you help?
It is no big deal for Vasu: “Aap U.S., England kahan bhi pooch … jitna bhi amount ho … koi problem nahin hai … wahan se dene ka yahan aane ke … samjho ho jayega … yahan se dedo wahan pahoonchna bhi … ho jayega no problem … U.K., U.S, Australia anywhere … any amount … no problem (You ask U.S., England, wherever, whatever the amount is, there is no problem … give it there and receive it here … consider it as done … give it here and receive it there … that will be done … no problem … U.K., U.S., Australia anywhere … any amount … no problem).”
The transfer of our money, pouts Vasu the assurance, would be carried off smoothly. He has sent Rs. 20 lakh through hawala that very day, claims Vasu, and every month he sends at least Rs. 10–12 crore through hawala to both local and international destinations.
Vasu has a suggestion for us: “Ek hi din mein maximum Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 crore karenge … wohi ye 25 crore ek hi din mein nikale bole toh thoda … daily daily 4, 4, 5 crores le liya toh … toh 5 days mein ho jayega (In a day we will do a maximum Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 crore … taking out all Rs. 25 crore in a single day is a little [risky] … if we take Rs. 4–5 crore daily, we will have done it all in 5 days).”
Says Vasu about his senior associate: “They have official business on that also … don’t worry … they do number two also number one also … they have the license.”
We never knew a shady business like hawala requires a legal license. Maybe we are wrong.
The main kingpin of this racket is powerful, as becomes clear from what Vasu says: “Daily un log ka mere khyaal se 25,30 crore ka transaction rehta hoga un log ka …har country ke currency ka toh wo problem nahi hai … wo chhodiye, they will manage everything… kuch kaarwai kar raha … hai bole toh wo log paper karke rakhte hai … kuch zaroorat hoyega koi pakda gaya toh immediate paper chale jaata hai … kuch manage karna ho toh upar se phones bhi chale jaata hai… wo problem nahin wo manage karenge (I think they must be doing transactions of Rs. 25 to 30 crore daily… is possible in the currency of any country … there is no a problem … not only that … they will manage everything … in case if [somebody is] taking an action [against you] … they keep their papers ready … if it is required … if someone is arrested … the papers are sent immediately … if something needs to be managed … [they get the] people at the top make phone calls … it’s not a problem … they will manage).”
It shows how the hawala operators work, abusing the license they get to deal in foreign currency, and then there are people in the government who would come to their rescue when they have trouble with law.
Our rendezvous with Dr. Prasad and Vasu thus comes to end. As Dr. Prasad and his relative leave for airport, Vasu offers to drop our reporter at the hotel.
On the way, our reporter asks him more about his stint in the CBI. The ex-cop says: “That is the only experience for me and my business.”
Although we tried to verify his claims with regard to his being an ex-cop and his stint with CBI, our inquiries couldn’t ascertain Vasu’s antecedents. But if it is true what he claims he was, Vasu has put his police training to good use.
The car stops and Vasu gets down. Instructing the driver to drop our reporter at his destination, the hawala kingpin bids goodbye, with a smile.

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Operation 136: Part 1


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