Cobrapost |
July 26, 2011

“Agar aap chahte hain main aapka account PAN ke bina bhi khol sakta hun… PAN ke bina (If you want, I can open your account even without PAN … without PAN). It won’t be tracked.” – S. Banerjee

“Agar aap chahte hain main aapka account PAN ke bina bhi khol sakta hun… PAN ke bina (If you want, I can open your account even without PAN … without PAN). It won’t be tracked.” – S. Banerjee

Yet another branch. Still the same proposition. No disappointment, however.
At the very gates of this branch of Axis Bank somewhere in North 24 Parganas in Kolkata, the Cobrapost journalist bumps into an official who happens to be none other than Deputy Manager S. Bannerjee. Banerjee has come out to attend a call. What a coincidence!
I have to discuss about some handsome investment, the reporter tells him. This is enough for Banerjee to politely usher the visitor in and take him to his cabin. Taking a seat, our reporter, in the course of conversation tells him the objective of his visit: A politician wants to invest Rs. 50 lakh, in some long-term, safe insurance plan, with no tax deductions. The investment has to be made in three names: the politician’s relative, our very own reporter, his wife and the politician’s wife. In no case should the politician’s name be disclosed.

After Banerjee has educated the reporter on various aspects of a safe investment plan, with 310 per cent returns, the reporter tells him the investment money is Rs. 50 lakh to begin with, and it is in cash. Banerjee needed neither any more details nor any prodding. He understands it well why the visitor is there, and without any qualms claims: “Agar aap chahte hain main aapka account PAN ke bina bhi khol sakta hun… PAN ke bina (If you want, I can open your account even without PAN … without PAN). It won’t be tracked.” (14.50.55) What a start! Nothing like it, appreciates our reporter. Banerjee again reiterates: “Samajh gaye main kya bol raha hun (Do you understand what I am telling you).… that’s why I said main PAN ke bina bhi account khol sakta hun.”

We are very appreciative of what you are offering. We need an understanding man like you. So, will you route the money through the account, asks the reporter. He continues: “Haan … ahista ahista kar ke nikal jayega … nikaal lijiyega … clearing cheque se ghusaiyega … main aapko bol doonga … date main bol doonga … clearing cheque se ghusaiyega and RTGS karke nikaal lijiyega (Yes, it will be taken out slowly … you can take it out … slip in the money through clearing cheque. I will tell you when. I will tell you the date. Slip in through clearing cheque and then take it out through TGS).” (14.51.21)

We don’t know what exactly the official means by saying “ghusaiyega.” But it certainly raises a pertinent question: Are they tampering with the records at the branch level or at the clearing branch level?

I didn’t get what you meant by clearing cheque, asks the reporter. I can’t give you cheque. I can give only cash.

Pausing for a moment, Banerjee asks: “Aap kismein comfortable hain … cash ya cheque (What are you comfortable with, cash or cheque)?

I am comfortable in cash, the reporter tells Banerjee. The point is what we have is all black money and we want to make it white.

No problem, says Banerjee in his own inimitable style: “No issue … jab khilayenge… instalments mein khilayenge… samjhe… ek baar tees mein nahin … ek baar tees–pacchis dena nahin hoga … paanch din paanch karke… instalment mein kijiye (No issue… when money will be fed … it will be fed in instalements… not 30 in one go… you don’t have to give 30 or 25 at one go… but like 5 in 5 days … do it in instalments).” (14.51.50)

Yes, it will be the safest thing to do, exclaims the reporter, it instalments. This way the politician’s name will also not come to light.

After working for some moments on his computer, Banerjee leaves to pick up the print out of the computation for the benefit of his client. Some moments later he brings in another official, D. Bhattacharya. The reporter engages him into talking on some inanities, like purchasing gold. Banerjee has some purpose in inviting his colleague to join in the conversation, perhaps. Bhattacharya asks the reporter if he is planning to buy gold then it can also be discussed.

Also inviting him to the evening meeting, our reporter says first things first. The first thing is insurance. The point is well taken by Bhattacharya.

After the education on insurance is over, the reporter again reiterates his concerns about the safety of investment. You know how the politicians earn but when it comes to safety of their investment they are very skeptical. So, he doesn’t want the bank official to be a first-timer like him. That is why he wants the official to meet the minister to take him into confidence. Both Bhattacharya and Banerjee reassure him.

The reporter then comes to investment in gold. Bhattacharya asks if he wants to buy gold for investment or for making ornaments. It was just to adjust the cash lying at home which is giving the minister sleepless nights, says the reporter.

Interjecting, Banerjee tells him to go for a diversified investment portfolio that also includes gold: “Main boloon aapko (Shall I tell you)… whatever you have the fund …you scatter it … liquid aap rakhna nahin chahte (You don’t to keep the liquid) … suppose you have hundred rupees, you give 75 to insurance, 15 to gold and 10 to debt mutual funds. So, scatter in this way. Diversifying karo.” Ok, fine. We will buy 4–5 kg of gold through Axis Bank, the reporter assures his audience. They both provide him guidance.

Would the bank then give us in writing that we can then resell the gold, asks the reporter? Bhattacharya understands the point and makes it clear to the parties: “Inka jo kehna hai ki inko gold kahridna hai kharid ke uska liquidity kaise ho sakta hai … mujhe jahan tak samajh mein aa raha hai (As far as I can understand, what he is saying is that what will be its liquiditiy after they buy the gold).”

Taking the cue, Banerjee says: “Bech bhi sakte ho aur pledge bhi karwa sakte hain Axis Bank mein (You can sell the gold and pledge it with Axis Bank).”

In fact, you can both sell the gold and pledge it to the bank, up to 75 per cent of the value. Can we really do that, how come, asks the reporter. Bhattacharya confides in the reporter what real benefit of buying gold is: “Wo to collateral hai … Agar hum aapko uske against loan de rahe hain us time ek value rehta hai na … haan to wo bhi white ho jayega … sabse achha hai wo white ho jayega (That is like a collateral … if we give loan against that … yes that will also become white … the best part is that will also become white).” We can always resell it later and thus convert our money into white. So, buying gold is another avenue to make black money white.

The last but not the least. Now!

Our minsiter’s darling wife is a frequent flier to Jordan. Can some crores be transferred to her relatives there? They suggest it could be done through a normal account, no need for an NRI account. But do it the safest way, pleads the reporter.

How much you want to send there, asks Bhattacharya? About Rs. 5–7 crore, and keeping it at home is giving us a nightmare, tells the reporter, cursing his fate. Donning his thinking cap, a sauve Bhattacharya gives away another secret of laundering money: “Koi firm toh hogi na unlog ke naam pe… suniye…RBI ka bahut sa rules bhi hain… loopholes bhi hain…maan lijiye ek company hai ABCD Pvt. Ltd.… Usmein dikhana hota hai business-cum-leisure trip…50,000 dollars per trip… allowed hai… per trip pe … year nahin…everytime lagbhag atthais lakh ja raha hai…doh teen director honge toh (Do they have any firm in their name? Look … if there are various rules of the RBI then there are loopholes as well. Suppose, there is a company called ABCD Pvt. Ltd. We have to show a business-cum-leisure trip… 50,000 dollars per trip is allowed… this is per trip, not year … so everytime about Rs. 28 lakh goes … if there are two–three directors, then…).”

What an idea! Use a private limited company as a front, say it is a business-cum-holiday trip and take $50,000 per trip legally. When you have bankers like Bhattacharya, you can beat the system any which way you want. And Bhattacharya is no minion for a banker. He is branch head looking after all operations of his branch.

The meeting ends with mutual appreciation and assurance to conclude the deal in the evening in the presence of our mysterious politician.

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