IndusInd Bank, Case 4, T.J. Reddy, Branch Manager; Srikanth K, Customer Service Manager, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Extremely capable in the segment of money laundering, even a junior officer is aware of the many financial by-lanes, including getting a ‘pattadar’ passbook (a passbook for tax-free agricultural income) done and showing fake agricultural land holdings as well as setting up ‘benami’ accounts.
At this branch of IndusInd Bank somewhere in Hyderabad, the Cobrapost journalist meets Customer Services Manager Srikanth K and tells him briefly that he plans to invest for a long term and desires good returns. He tells him the amount is big, hence we want to talk to the branch manager. The branch manager has just stepped out (he is expected back a little later) and we move to his chamber to discuss.
We say that the investible amount is Rs. 50 lakh, which is in cash and in black. It is the politician’s money and the investment would be in three names: me, my wife and the politician’s wife. More money is in store.
The junior officer seems to have heard all this before. He asks: “PAN card de dete? Nahin dega (You won’t give PAN card)?”
We are not willing to give our PAN card. What are the options?
Says Srikanth: “Form 60 se invest kar sakte … aur ek hai jisme PAN card de ke invest kar sakte … Rs. 1 lakh ka upar hoga toh PAN card must hai investment ke liye (You can use Form 60 to invest [without PAN card] … and there is one more [instrument] in which you can invest if you give PAN card … you have to give PAN card for any investment over Rs. 1 lakh).”
We find out general information, such as the bank’s tie-up with AVIVA life insurance. After he educates on various products we can invest in, he says all returns will be white: “Poora white hoke cheque se ayega (Everything will come as white, by cheque).”
What if the taxman serves a notice some years down the line? We raise a natural concern.
Says Srikanth: “Koi notice nahin ayega (No notice will come).”
But would it be safe for us to invest, we ask, and give it us only when you have given it other customers in the past and only when they had had no problem.
Says Srikanth: “There are deals in crores also.”
What about our case? This is cash.
“No problem,” he says.
Would you do it, we ask, put in Rs. 50 lakh every year?
Srikanth comes up with a method: “Investment karne se pehle … ek pattadar passbook banayenge (Before making the investment, we will make a pattadar passbook).”
What is that, we ask?
Srikanth explains: “Pattadar passbook … agriculture ka passbook hota hai (Pattadar passbook is a passbook for agriculture).”
We say we don’t have any such passbook.
Says Srikanth helpfully: “Hum banwaa dega (I will get one for you).”
But would be your part of the deal, we tell him. We would just give you the cash.
“Yeah,” he responds.
He insists again that we need to give the PAN card because the invested amount will be high.
What if we are exposed after we give the PAN?
Srikanth makes it simple for us: “Kuch nahin hoga … wo white money hai na ... Pattadar passbook uske liye banwata (Nothing will happen … this will be white money … that is why people make the Pattadar passbook).”
But how is this done? We warn that the identity of the politician must not be disclosed.
He assures us: “Pattadar passbook banwake, aapko idhar land hai bolke dikhayega ... koi bhi poochne wala bhi nahin hai … koi pooche bhi to humare ye hai bolke pattadar passbook dikhayenge (After making pattadar passbook, we will show that you have land here … nobody will question this … even if anybody questions, you can show the passbook as proof).”
Will there be any problem? Have you done this before?
Srikanth drops the name of an infrastructure company whose owner he has done the favour.
But what they invest is like peanuts for us.
He asks the reporter to wait and speaks to Branch Manager T. J. Reddy. There is no sign of anxiety on the manager’s face: all in a day’s work. We tell him that if the tuning is right, we might invest more money, after which, we exchange phone numbers.
How much of our money can you adjust now?
Says the banker: “Aise to 25–50 lakh … karwa denge … 50 lakh se shuruvaat kare (We can do Rs. 25–50 lakh … let us start with Rs. 50 lakh).”
And can we increase after two–three months?
Says Srikanth: “Bara sakte ... kuch problem nahin (You can increase … no problem).”
However, we come to learn later that this cannot be achieved through this policy because of inherent risks.
Srikanth has thought it out: “Abhi ek kaam kariye Sir… benami se usko le lete (Do one thing Sir … we can take it in through benami).”
And what would benami be?
Prompt are we explained the phenomena of benami: “Benami account bole toh … aap paise dete na … paise aapke servant … aapki signature chahiye, aap hi ... uska ID proof address proof hum le ke aayega … uske adjustment hum karenga … karke aap signature kare toh woh withdraw hoga (In a benami account, you will place the money in, say, in your servant’s name, but the money can be withdrawn only with your signature … we will manage his ID proof and address proof … we will make adjustments … after that you can withdraw the money with your signature).”
We try to understand the complex nature of the deal – the signature would be ours, the authority to withdraw would be ours, but the account would be in the name of our driver, servant etc. Hence the source of the money would remain untraceable.
Do we have to arrange for these people? No. Even that ‘service’ is available at the bank.
Says the banker: “Humara admi hai … aap ka signature chahiye (We have the people … only your signature will be needed).”
We clarify this area again. So you will also provide those people?
The banker nods in agreement:“Haan (Yes).”
But won’t this arrangement be open to misuse? The actual account holders cannot withdraw the money? He says the branch manager can enlighten us further on this.
Waiting for the branch manager we do some basic math and find that for an investment of Rs. 75 lakh over 5 years, we get Rs. 75 lakh returned as white, plus make a profit of Rs. 30 lakh.
There is an insurance cover thrown in as well. However, the bank’s major service would be in laundering Rs. 75 lakh through this policy.
We invite the banker over to meet the minister the same evening to take the deal forward.
Finally Branch Manager Reddy arrives.
He explains the policy details and then asks: “You’re paying in cash?”
When we say yes, the branch manager starts thinking. He asks: “Then how…” He discusses with Srikanth and comes up with the solution that the junior officer has already detailed. Reddy explains how it would be done: “Aap ka teeno ka account khol denge (We will open accounts for you three) … we will declare this income, whatever amount you are investing, 15-15 lakh… this will be… they are getting as agricultural income.”
Sounds simple, but will that be safe for us?
Guarantees the branch manager: “Safe rahega (It will be safe).”
So we will use this route to deposit the money in the account, following which we can invest in the insurance. Is that a safe route?
Reddy assures: “Safe rahega… kuch problem nahin … 200 per cent … aapka agriculture income bolke karna padega (This will be safe ... no problem … 200 per cent … We will have to show it as your agriculture income) … They may not ask for anything ... however, you are giving all these things … documentation … no risk ... ek bar shaam mein baat karenge (Let us talk in the evening).”
That decided, we now ask for the NRI account procedure. And this is what Reddy has to say:
“You can open … work permit hote (You can open … you need a work permit).”
But there is no work permit. We just go as tourists.
We see that the banker can provide no leeway, so we go back to the insurance policy. We will deposit small amount. How much more can we deposit or top up?
The branch manager says no as it would involve risk. After discussing ULIPs, we leave the bank telling them to meet in the evening again.