cobrapost - April 27, 2013

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State Bank of India, Case 2, J. Kaur, Chief Manager, Panchkula, Haryana

Open an account, the senior banker suggests, and put in your cash in tranches to route it into investment, to convert your black money into white avoiding the prying eyes of Income Tax authorities

Here at Panchkula, the branch our reporter approaches first is unable to take a call on his proposition of investing Rs. 5 crore. Therefore, he is directed to some other branch. Here too the banker is busy and after a patient wait when the banker is told by the visitor he is there to invest about Rs. 5 crore, the banker promptly takes him to his superior. Our reporter finally meets the right banker in Chief Manager J. Kaur. The banker himself tells Kaur, who is with some other person, the purpose of the visitor.

The proposition brings a big smile on Kaur’s face. She promptly asks: “Kis tareh ka investment chahte hain Sir aap (What kind of investment you want make Sir).”

It has to be long term, has to be safe and should yield good returns, our reporter makes it clear to her. Rejecting outright Kaur’s suggestion to invest in mutual funds, he tells her it is better if he invested in some long-term schemes. This opens up the discussion. Kaur allays his fear of market ups and downs and tells him if he invests in debt fund, the principal will never corrode, and there is no tax on returns.

Understanding her point, our reporter says this is what we are looking for. He will put in Rs. 50 lakh in the instrument.

Encouraged, Kaur suggests: “Is tareh se hum log aapko wo kar lete hain … portfolio bana deti hoon (This is how we will do it for you … I will make a portfolio).”

Telling her that he stays in Sector 10 of Panchkua, our reporter asks her to send some of her executive to his residence to discuss the investment. Agreeing to send her executive in the evening, she asks what the calling of the visitor is. Our reporter informs her he works for a politician and this is his money.

Quips Kaur cheerfully: “Samajh gayi shriman … samaj sewa (I understand Sir … social service).” Our reporter too says it is serving the country.

Kaur goes on to suggest: “Fir main bata doon mutual fund best rahega … na toh wahan pe koi hai batanewala ki sources of fund kahan se aya … na hi ismein wo cheez hai … wo kar sakte hain … (Then, I shall tell you mutual fund will be the best … there is no requirement for you to reveal the source of fund … from where it has come … there is nothing like that … you can do it).”

We know now that the senior banker understands the real purpose of investing our crores.
Fine, we will certainly go by your advice, says our reporter, appreciating her candid approach. After exchanging the numbers, Kaur asks: “Shaam ko available hain (Are you available in the evening).”

Yes, says our reporter. The investment has to be done in three names: the politician’s wife, his frontman, the reporter himself, and the frontman’s wife. So, tell us how to move forward.

Replies Kaur: “Dekhiye pehle to hum aapko wo saari details batayenge … uske liye kuch nahin chahiye hota hai … proof of residence … proof of identity chahiye aapka (You see, first we tell you all the details … you don’t need anything for that except your proof of residence and proof of identity).”

All right, says our reporter, we will give you passport.

Kaur asks: “PAN number hoga (Do you have PAN number).”

Tell us both ways, with or without PAN, says our reporter.

Replies Kaur: “Dekhiye humari alag alag schemes hain jo aapke liye suitable hogi wo hum wahan pe kar denge … theek hai (Look, we have different schemes. We will go for whichever scheme is suitable for you, then and there … alright).” She asks for the address as she is ready to meet the minister and his wife to take the deal forward. Our reporter tells her that it will not be advisable to give the address at this moment as all the cash is lying at home. He will let her know when the minister is available for the meeting. The reporter tells her to bring along a colleague who is reliable, and please bring the forms to complete the formalities.

Then, Kaur asks him if he would like to invest in mutual funds or in SBI Life, the insurance business arm of SBI.

Anything which is safe, offers good returns and helps us make our money white, says our reporter. Please keep the identity of the minister secret.

Kaur is quick to reassure us in her own inimitable style: “Humein kuch nahin pata … na main sun rahi hoon … na aap keh rahe hain … aap … ye baatein mujhse mat kariye … ye apne tak hi seemit rakhiye … apne andar hi … mujhe mat bataiye … jo kare na kare humein toh us bande ki proof of residence leni hai … mein kuch nahin janti hoon … humara kuch lena dena nahin hai … aap paisa doge aapka kaam hoga … iske alawa isse zyada humein kuch nahin (We don’t know anything … neither I am hearing nor you are saying anything … keep all these things to yourself … don’t tell me … we have nothing to do with it … you give money and your job will be done … we don’t know anything more than this).” This is how we are advised to keep it secret. She heard nothing and we said nothing.

During the course of conversation over a cup of tea, Kaur asks our reporter if he has an account with her branch. No, but you can open three and the formalities can be done in the evening. In the meanwhile, she instructs somebody on phone to get back to her when he is free and then she again calls some other official asking him to come to her as soon as he is back in Panchkula as she has something urgent to discuss. She then turns her attention to the other person who has silently sat throughout the proceedings. The person discusses with her about the harassment he is facing on account of availing a loan from the bank.

As soon as he has left the room, Kaur says in a sweet reprimand: “Jab customer baithe hote hain aisi baat nahin karni hoti (You should not discuss such things when other customers are sitting here).”

Our apologies, Madam. The discussion now moves on to the investment.

Asks Kaur: “Ab aapki kya hai aap mujhe bataiye (Now, tell me what you want).”

The minister wants to know what will be the returns on our investment, our reporter is quick to reply.

Asks Kaur: “Aap kitna invest karna chahte hain (How much do you want to invest).”

Rs. 5 crore is kept at home, our reporter is doubly quick to rattle off. Tell us if we should invest the money in parts.

Kaur again asks: “Aapke na cash hi hoga na (You must have it all in cash).”

You got it right, Madam, says our reporter. That is the problem.

Says Kaur: “Main usase baat karti hoon (Let me talk to him).”

She then rings the official concerned. Before she gets across the person on phone, she politely asks our reporter to shut the doors. Such deals should be cut in the most discreet manner, we understand.

Kaur on phone: “Humare paas offer hai big amount lagane ki … lekin cash hai … ab isko kaise kiya … unke paas toh cash hi hai bhaiya … account mein toh paisa nahin hai … nahin agar cash se draft bana diye jaayein draft banke wo invest kar dein paisa … acha … nahin ab inka toh cash mein hai … ab inko agar aise mutual fund mein ya SBI Life mein laga lete hain toh wo white mein ho jayega na paisa saara … return uska white mein aa jayega … bahut hai amount ki chinta na karo … ye toh tum thought karo ki kaise ho sakta hai … cash hai unke paas and he wants to invest the money … five plus hai … nahin five plus hai … 5 crore ke aas-paas … haan, haan … nahin, nahin zaroori thodi hai ki saara ek hi naam se thodi lagna hai … [reporter tells her it has to be in three names] … teen naam se lagna hai na paisa … thoda SBI Life mein bhi laga dete hain SBI Life … maloom karke batana fir dekhte hain fir kisi aur nakalte hain kyonki cash mein branch nahin transaction kar sakti na … hum toh nahin kar sakte hain na cash mein … wo toh customer aage khud apna draft bana sakta hai cash ka usmein kya dikkat hai … pachaas hazar se neeche hi draft banega na … uske liye toh koi problem hi nahin hai na … pachaas hazar se neeche toh draft bana hi sakta hai na … wo toh chalo baad ki baat hai … pehle socho ki agar ho sakta hai cash ki transaction hai matlab kehne ka matlab ye hai na … cheque se toh koi bhi kar dega … tabhi toh aapse discuss kar rahe hain na ki agar hum unki help kar payenge … hogi toh theek hai, nahin hogi toh bhi theek hai … we will find out some (We have an investment offer of a big amount … but it is in cash … now how we can do it … brother, he has only cash … the money is not in his account … no, what if we can get draft for the cash then he can invest it by draft … ok … no, he has cash only … if we invest his money in mutual fund or SBI Life then all the money will become white … its returns will be in white … give it a thought how we can do it … he has cash and he wants to invest the money … it is five plus … no, it is five plus … it is about 5 crore … yes, yes … no, no … it is not necessary to invest all the money in one name … [reporter tells her it has to be in three names] … the money has to be invested in three names … lets us invest some in SBI Life also … seek advice on it and then tell me … then we will see if we can do it some other way because we can’t do this much of transaction in cash in the branch … we can’t do it in cash … the customer himself can get a draft made for the cash … what is the problem there in it … the draft should be below 50,000 … he can make a draft for cash below 50,000 … that thing we will see later … first think if cash transaction can be done … this what I mean … anybody would do it by cheque … that is why I am discussing it with you … if we can help him, it is fine … if we can’t it is still fine … we will find some …).”

Turning to our reporter, Kaur says: “Pehle toh ji aapke paas cash hai usike liye badi dikkat wali baat hai ki bhai wo kya kehte hain … (First, the biggest problem for them is you have it all in cash).”

We are not in hurry, says our reporter. We can do it in parts, gradually, not all in one go. The problem is we can’t hold such huge cash at home. But it should be safe.

Kaur reassures, while getting on to her mobile phone again: “Nahin … obviously safe hoga … usmein toh aapko return bhi hoga (No … obviously it will be safe … you will also get returns on it).”

Yes we would love it if we get returns, says our reporter thankfully. He then asks Kaur to come along with her colleague.

Replies Kaur: “Nahin main toh nahin aaoongi wo ladka hi ayega … kyonki abhi bank zyada baat ko failana nahin … wo aake aapse discuss karega … jo bhi karega … aapki icha hai karo (No, I will not come … that boy will come … because the word should not spread in the bank … he will come and discuss with you … whatever he will do … if you like it you go ahead).”

In the meanwhile, she has got the fellow in the other end of the line. Kuar on the phone: “Haan Kamal … baat toh mere se hi karni hai unse ye bataiye … koi baat nahin mere se hi milna hai aapne … acha meri ek baat suno … ye cash mein aap kuch adjustment kar sakte ho … cash mein kar sakte ho … maano maine pachas lakh cash hai mere paas cheque nahin hai … ye mujhe maloom nahin hai … agar aap cash adjust kar sakte ho toh aap sadhe chaar taka a jao … nahin aap branch mein hi jao main unko bhi branch mein hi bula leti hoon sadhe chaar baje … agar aapki queries hain wo apas mein deal kar lijiye … hota hai toh theek hai nahin hota hai toh nahin … theek hai … sadhe chaar baje (Yes, Kamal … tell him he has to speak to me only … no problem you have to meet me … ok … listen to what I am telling you … can you do some adjustment in cash … can you do it in cash … suppose I have Rs. 50 lakh in cash, I don’t have a cheque … I don’t know this … if you can adjust the cash then you come to me by 4.30 … no you come to the branch and I am calling him to the branch only at 4.30 … if you have queries sort them out mutually … if it can be done then it is ok if not, be it … alright … at 4.30).” The phone call over, Kuar turns to ask our reporter to come back at 4.30 pm to meet the official she has spoken to.

So, should we route our money into investment through an account, asks our reporter, or should we invest directly in the instrument. What will be the safe bet for us?

Replies Kaur, striking a note of caution: “Dekhiye aisa hai agar account ke through aap cash jama karate ho toh wo transactions heavy hongi toh aapki monitoring hone ka dar hai (Look if you deposit the cash through an account, that transaction would be heavy … then there is a chance of it falling under monitoring).”

So, should we do it in smaller chunks, asks the reporter, in intervals of a few days. How much should be comfortable for us to do?

Replies Kaur, again with a word of caution: “Matlab dus lakh se neeche transaction rakh lo … aath aath nau nau karte ho aap cash jama karate ho toh ye jo hai na monitor hoti hain transactions … aisa na ho fir aapko kal fir wo transactions … (I mean you keep the transaction below Rs. 10 lakh … Rs. 8 lakh, Rs. 9 lakh each … if you deposit cash then such transaction are monitored … then it may happen that tomorrow those transactions can be monitored …).”

It means we may have to face problem from the Income Tax Department two–three years later, bemoans our reporter.

Agrees Kaur to say: “Haan toh isiliye asisa hota hai ki aap account khulwaiye pehle … account khulwaiye … sabhi ke naam se khulwa dijiye (That is why you should open an account … open account in the names of all).”

Fine, we will open three accounts, agrees our reporter, to meet the preliminary requirement.
Telling us to give PAN card and address proof, she further says: “Usmein dheere dheere transactions kar lijiye … ab tak karte toh shayad wo paisa aapka ho bhi jaata (Do transactions gradually … had you been doing like this the entire money would have perhaps come in).”

You are right, says our reporter, but the minister got this money only yesterday and more money is yet to come.

Asks an understanding Kuar: “Agriculture ki hai kya (Do you have some agriculture income)?”
The reporter goes on to tell her that all this money has to be invested in some safe way. The purpose is to make it white.

Suggests Kaur: “Toh insurance mein daal do aap … wo ladka aa raha hai … aap sadhe chaar baje aa jaiye (Then put it in insurance … that boy is coming … do come again at 4.30).”

Do you suggest, asks our reporter, insurance is safe in this case?

Kaur returns: “Dekhiye hum log aise do number ki entry karte nahin (You see we don’t do this kind of No. 2 entry).”

We are looking for safety of our money, says our reporter.

Replies Kaur to reassure: “Hai safety hai … haan … maan lijiye aapka paanch crore hai agar paanch crore ka paanch crore teen saal ke baad aapka white ho jata hai to aapko fir kya chahiye (Yes there is safety … suppose you have Rs. 5 crore if Rs. 5 crore becomes white after three years then what more you need).”

Well said, we don’t need anything more.

Kaur continues to serenade us with more hope: “Meri baat suniye aapko wo deke hi jayega … aisi koi baat nahin hai … lekin wo hai ki aapki safety bhi toh dekhiye na … aapne do number ki entry ek mein kar li (Listen to me, it will give some returns anyway … there is nothing to worry … but you should also see your safety … you will have converted the No. 2 entry into No. 1).”

Nothing like it Madam!

One thing more! The minister’s wife goes to Jordon often. Can you help us send some of the crores to her relatives there from Rs. 4–5 crore that the minister is expecting in January first week?

Kaur replies: “Wo toh account ke through hi bhej sakte hain (That can be sent only through an account).” She then goes on to tell that there are strict RBI guidelines with regard to transfer of money and up to US$1 lakh can be sent. It can be transferred to their accounts there only.

Does it mean that we can send abroad money in parts like Rs. 40 lakh, Rs. 50 lakh this way?
Replies Kaur: “Parts mein bhej sakte hain (You can send it in parts).” It is done by their main branch, she informs.

Please ask the person to bring in forms when he comes to meet us, says our reporter. Kaur is quick to reiterate that he should come to the branch at 4.30 to discuss it with the official. Solve the issue of cash transaction first and then move forward.

Kaur explains in detail what to be done: “Agar aapne khata khulwana hai toh khata khulwa lijiye … account opening form le jana humse … bhar ke le aana … unko yahan aana padega khata kholne ke liye … theek hai … wo khata khula usmein transaction karni shuru kar do (If you want to open an account open an account … take account opening forms from us and bring them back duly filled … they will have to come here to open account … alright … once the account is opened you can start doing transaction in it).”

So, we will route our money through the accounts, says our reporter. She goes on to say first things first, the rest of the things will be seen later.

Whatever you suggest should be safe for us, our reporter reiterates. The minister’s name should never come to light.

Reassures Kaur in her own typical style: “Nahin naam toh dekhiye jiska account number hoga usi ka hoga … baaki humein kya pata kiske paise hain … aap jaanein, Income Tax wale jaanein aur government jaane (You see there will be the name of only the person whose account it is … we don’t know whose money is this … you should know it, the Income Tax people should know it and the government should know it).”

Do you mean we will have problem from IT Department later, our reporter raises alarm.

Reassures Kaur: “Nahin, nahin waise main baat kar rahin hoon na … account hai aapka maan lijiye hain na … humein kya dikkat hai (No, no, I am saying that only for an example … suppose you an account … we have no problem).”

The meeting ends with our reporter assuring her he will get back to her branch at the appointed time to discuss the issue with the official. The meeting, however, does not take place for some technical reasons.

On being contacted by the Cobrapost reporter after the expose, she rejects the idea of accepting cash. It will be done by cheque only.

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