Cobrapost |
July 26, 2011

The bankers at this branch of Axis Bank know it well how to keep such dubious transactions off the radar, and will put all their resources at your command to make it white

The bankers at this branch of Axis Bank know it well how to keep such dubious transactions off the radar, and will put all their resources at your command to make it white

The Cobrapost reporter walks straight up to the desk of a lady banker at this branch of Axis Bank somewhere in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Drawing her attention, he states the purpose of his visit: A minister wants to invest Rs. 50–60 lakh in some long-term instrument with no tax deductions. It has to be done in three names: the frontman, our reporter, himself, his wife and the minister’s wife. We are related by marriage. More money, about 5–7 crore, is due in March. The objective: Make the money white.

While busy sifting through documents, S. Srivastava is listening to the visitor. They call it multi-tasking! And the subtext is not lost on this smart banker, as she says: “White chahte hain na? Thik hai (You want it white? Ok). Suggesting the client to opt for a long-term plan, she gets into discussing the modalities of the plan. The plan looks good, and she herself vouches for its merits: “Ismein TDS kahi nahin katna aapka … 200 per cent … koi hidden charges nahin hai…and this is the best way to black aur white … convert karne ke liye (There will be no TDS in this … 200 per cent sure … there are no hidden charges … and this is the best way to convert black money into white).” This is what our purpose is Madam!

Srivastava goes on to elaborate upon how not submitting PAN would help go undetected: “Ismein TDS wagaira kuch nahi katna … income tax ka kahin figure out nahin hota hai … PAN number mat dijiyega … PAN number mat dijiyega … kyunki PAN number se kai baar trace hota hai…PAN number mat dijiyega. DL de dijiyega … passport de sakte hain, election card kahin ka bhi bana ho all over India sab chal jayega … this is the best way (There is no TDS in it. Income Tax Department will never be able to figure it out. Don’t give PAN number because it is often traced with PAN number. Give your DL. Or you can give your passport, an election card issued from anywhere in India. Anything will do… this is the best way).”

I wish I had met you early, says our reporter, appreciating her investor-friendly approach. Let us do it today itself. What a flatterer our reporter is!
But Srivastava doesn’t need any prodding. She comes straight to the mode of payment, as she asks: “Cash denge kaise karenge (Will you give cash. How will you do it)?” This is all what we have Madam, says the reporter.

It is fine with her, and she is going to put every service at our disposal once we open an account with her bank: “Account khol lijiyega ek…account mein daal dijiye…usi samay hum aapko kit bhi de denge…cheque book de denge usi samay hand to hand ATM card de denge… hand to hand sub kuch aayega…cash daal dijiyega usmein…cash se bana denge ye… kahin se figure out hi nahi hoga…paisa kahan se aaya kahan gaya…kahan laga … kuch nahi… PAN number sirf ek cheez hoti hai jisse security jo hoti hai…usko check kar sakti hai…isiliye aap PAN number mat dijiye (Open an account … put in it … we will issue you the kit that very moment … we will also issue the cheque book that very moment hand-to-hand, we will also give the ATM … everything will be done hand-to-hand … you can put cash in it … we will make it with that cash … it will never be figured out from where the money came and where it went, nothing. PAN is the only thing which can get the security [sic] … which can check it. So, don’t give your PAN number).”

Viola! We could straightway put in the cash in our accounts and the rest will be taken care of by the bank. Make DD from it or whatever, to route the money into the investment! And nobody would be able to deduct this fraud.

The reporter, unable to hide his glee, promptly asks Srivastava if she is comfortable she can come over to the minister’s residence with her seniors. It turns out that she herself is in-charge of operations in this branch and is an old hand. Srivastava agrees for the meeting with the minister.

Cautioning against opting for FDs, she says it will be immediately picked up for scrutiny and then how would you explain the source of money, and you won’t be able to show it in books. So, do as suggested. She says: “Yeh toh ho gaya ki nikal gaya paisa…investment cash mein dikha diya…khatam kahani (Here it is like the money moves out … we show the investment in cash … the story ends here).”

Is that so simple, so hassle free! No, we are still not convinced. So, the reporter asks her if she has done this before?

Srivastava quick to reassure about the safety of the investment: “Safe hai hundred per cent hai … two hundred per cent hai … maine cases niptaye hue hain yahan pe (It is safe … 100 per cent safe … 200 per cent …I have done such cases here itself).”

Are you sure, the reporter asks again, they didn’t have any problem sometime later.
Reassures Srivastava, begging to trust her: “Koi problem nahin hogi … itna trust rakhiye…ismein kahin se bhi koi track nahin rehta hai (There will be no problem … you can trust this much … there is no tracking in it).”

She then tells how unsafe investing in mutual funds is, in which PAN is mandatory as per the SEBI norms, the returns are unsure and then all returns are account linked. She continues to say: “Ismein na to PAN ki zaroorat hai…na hi koi record hai ki ye paisa aaya kahan se aur interest kahan gaya ye cheez hai…interest aapka account mein aayega bhi nahin … cheque se aayega white ho ke (Here in it there is no PAN required … there is no record, either, stating from where has money come, this is the thing … interest you earn on it will not be credited to your account … it comes by cheque becoming white).” We will sure do it the way you suggest!
My master, the minister, is expecting Rs. 5–7 crore from a big deal from Greater Noida, the reporter cooks up another story. That too will be in cash. Would she be kind to help the minister make it white? An affable soul that Srivastava is she doesn’t disappoint us: “Main karwa doongi… white hi karna hai (I will get it done … it has to be made white).”

If you can do it the same day or the next, we have no problem, interjects the reporter. But entrust the task to someone who is trustworthy. Never mind the expenses. We will pay upfront.

Srivastava tells us to put all worries to rest when she is there: “Sir main bilkul samajh rahi hun … aap itminaan rakhiye…koi tension nahin aayega beech mein… main bilkul samajh rahi hun … lekin uske liye account hona zaroori hoga (I understand it … you don’t worry … there would be no tension anywhere… I understand it … but account is necessary for that to happen).”

Where is the problem, the reporter says. Open one at the earliest. Srivastava goes on to advise how best we can distribute money by opening multiple accounts and convert it into white: “Aap ye bhi kar sakte hain… madam ke naam se daal diya… bachchon ke naam se daal diya…main wo bata doongi kitna kitna kismein kismein daaliyega…aapka poora convert ho jayega (You can also do this… put in madam’s name, put in children’s names … I will tell you how much to put in in which account … your all cash will be converted).” We have no doubt, Madam, now!
Would you then give us locker big enough to keep all those crores?

No big deal! Locker will be given on the basis of the first investment itself, says Srivastava: “Locker isi ke basis pe mil jayega … isi ke basis pe … lockers hum unko de hi rahe hain jo investment karte hain … seedhi si baat hai (You will get the lockers on this basis … on this basis … we give lockers to those who are making investments … it is as simple as that).”

What about counting those currency bills of 500, asks the reporter? Srivastava seems to believe in providing single-window service: “Sub yahin ho jayega … sub kara denge … aap nishchint raho. Aapka poora kaam main hi karwa doongi (Everything will be done here … everything will done … put all such worries off your head … I will get everything done for you).” Nothing can be more reassuring than this!

The minister’s wife often goes to England. Can we transfer some of the Rs. 5–7 crore to somebody there?

Srivastava says: “Jab account ho jaata hai na to usi se remittance… humare yahan se hi ho jayega … cheque chahiye hoga bus remittance ke liye (When you have an account with us, it can be done through remittance from it … it will be done from here … we only need a cheque for remittance).”

But it should not be disclosed to anybody, reporter spells out the rider in no uncertain terms. Srivastava brushes such concern aside: “Wo kuch nahin… jahan pe aapko daalna hai uski details chahiye hoti hain … baaki reasons nahin hota hai … ki kyun ho raha hai (Nothing of that sort … we only need details where you are sending it … no reasons are asked … why it is being done).”

Telling her that he will make all investments with only her bank, under her guidance, our reporter reminds her that nothing has to be disclosed, and please don’t forget to keep your seniors in loop. Swearing to secrecy, Srivastava reassures: “Sir aap nischint rahiye…bilkul kahi se kuch bhi nahi hoga… sirf mere jo manager hain… mere jo branch head hain … unki knowledge mein hoga (Sir don’t worry … nothing like that will happen … only my manager … who is my branch head … I will bring it to her knowledge).” Keeping your bosses informed on such dubious deals is always good.

In her zeal to reassure the customer, she even offers to introduce our reporter to her boss, S. Kaur, then and there. The sooner the better, says the reporter, and he is promptly led to the manager’s room.

Both Srivastava and our reporter apprise the manager of the proposed investment. Srivastava goes on to explain her how it will be done through accounts: “Uss tarike se bifurcate kar denge (We will bifurcate it like that).”

Hearing of so much of cash investment, Kuar is rather shocked. She exclaims: “Sixty lakhs kaise ho payega (How can Rs. 60 lakh be invested)?”

As an understanding banker, Srivastava tries to convince her boss: “Mam saara nahin daalenge … inka kuch account mein rahega … kuch alag alag rahega (Mam, we will not put in the whole amount … we will put some in their account … some we will put separately).”

We are not in a rush, our reporter interjects. Do it as is convenient, maybe gradually. This prompts Kaur to say: “Aap investment karwa lijiye na (Why don’t you put all in investment).” You got it right Madam! That is why we are here.

Our reporter also invites Kaur to the evening meeting with the minister, to take the deal forward. Now, a beaming Kaur agrees.

Seeing her boss warming up to the proposition, Srivastava informs her all about the cash investment and the crores that will be kept in their lockers, how it will be routed into investment. Nodding her head in agreement to what her subordinate is telling her, she turns to the reporter to say: “Haan (Yes).”

Turning to the reporter, Srivastava brings home the point: “Maine isliye aako milwa diya ki shuru se operations head hain humari manager hain ye humari … isiliye maine ek baar milwa diya aapko (That is why I brought you here to meet her because she has been my operations head since the beginning, she is our manager here … that is why I got you to meet here at least once).”
Appreciative of her gesture, a thankful reporter asks Srivastava to tell him if it was possible to make the Rs. 5–7 crore white using the account of some company or some other accounts. Srivastava says emphatically: “Wo main karwa doongi … maine karwaye huye hain sir… don’t worry (I will take care of that … I have done this before Sir … don’t worry).”

All issue settled thus our satisfied reporter takes their leave with a word to meet again in the evening to take the deal forward in the presence of our secretive minister.

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