Cobrapost |
July 26, 2011

“Sir ka account khulna hai urgently char accounts… aur cash uthana hai 60 lakh (We have to open account for Sir, urgently … four accounts … and also pick up Rs. 60 lakh cash).” – A. Gupta

“Sir ka account khulna hai urgently char accounts… aur cash uthana hai 60 lakh (We have to open account for Sir, urgently … four accounts … and also pick up Rs. 60 lakh cash).” – A. Gupta

When the Cobrapost journalist reaches this branch of Axis Bank, somewhere in Sahibabad industrial area of Ghaziabad, the bank has already been closed for public dealing. But it takes little effort on his part to have his way, and a bank official is sent for, who takes him into the bank. The lady official our reporter is led to immediately gets down to business suggesting a long-term insurance plan. However, the moment our reporter tells her all the money, Rs. 50–60 lakh, that he has is in cash, the lady official directs him to P. Sinha, Relationship Associate of Max Life. Our reporter quickly parrots out what he wants: the investment has to be done in three names in a plan which fetches good, tax-free returns. It has to be done all in cash. The objective: make the money white. Unsure how to handle such customer with deep pockets who doesn’t want to give his ITR or any other implicating document, Sinha calls his senior on phone one Mr. Deepak. In the meanwhile, the lady official, Neha, also joins in. Sinha passes on the phone to the lady official who after briefing Deepak passes the phone to our reporter. Our reporter tells the official on the other end of the line that the purpose of the investment is to “adjust the cash” and convert “number doh” into “number ek.” In other words, make the money white. He finally gives the phone back to Sinha who after talking to his boss says: “Ho jayega bilkul (It will sure be done).”

Not convinced, our reporter tells Sinha that he will invest only when they already have done this kind of cash investments. Bending to come closure to our reporter and lowering his voice a bit, Sinha replies: “Bahut saari policy daali hain … cash mein hi to daali hain … abhi pichli baar… paanch lakh rupaye cash (Have put in may a policy … have put it only in cash … only recently Rs. 5 lakh in cash).”

But what you claim is only a pittance. We have really big money. How will you do it, asks the reporter? Sinha ventures to reassure, implicating his boss in the process: “Ek pichli baar Sir pachis lakh ka karaya tha…Sir ne karaya tha white money dikha kar ke aaram se nikaal diya… returns bahut hi ache mile the (Last time around Sir [my boss] had done it for Rs. 25 lakh. He showed it as white money and it easily slipped it past … the returns on it were really good).”
Telling him that the minister wants all his money invested to convert it into white, our reporter asks Sinha to introduce him to someone higher in rank so as to discuss the modalities. Readily obliging, Sinha takes him to meet A. Gupta, Assistant Vice President with Axis Bank. When our reporter briefs her, she insists on knowing the name of the minister he is representing. Telling her how important it is for him to keep the name of the minister secret till he zeroed on in a right investment vehicle to sequester his money, you know how the politicians earn, our reporter says. He is finding it very difficult to hold so much of cash at home. The Assistant Vice President is quick to suggest: “Usko lakar locker mein bhi daal sakte the (You could have brought it here and put it in a locker).”

We will definitely require one but we will come to it later, says the reporter. First things first! So, the reporter says how important it is for us to know first that wherever we are investing is safe and there are certain returns.

Asks an understanding Gupta: “Apni requirement aap pehle bataiye … fir main aage baat karungi… aap apni bataiye apki kya requirement hai (First, you tell me about your requirement … then I will carry the talks further. Tell me what your requirement is).”

As the negotiation progresses, Gupta says: “Pehli cheez ye jo policy honi hai ye cash hai ya cheque hai (The first thing is will this policy be done in cash or by cheque)?”

Our mode of payment is cash only, says the reporter. It is already lying at home.

A. Gupta is quick to suggest: “Main aapko ek salaah doongi… main aapko ek ek point aage badhti jaati hun … sabse pehle account open ho jaye … account open hone se pehle hi main cash apne account mein daal leti hun aur uske baad transfer karke aapke account mein daal diya jayega…aap kahein to abhi kara deti hun (I will give you a piece of advice … I will proceed point by point … first let’s open an account. Before opening the account, I will put the cash in our account and after that it will be transferred into your account … if you say I will get it done immediately).” While talking she calls out for one of her subordinates, Ajay.

So, when will you give me the receipt, asks our reporter, surprised at the turn of events.
Replies Gupta: “Aaj ki date mein daalenge aapke … account aapka doh–teen din mein khul jayega aur account khulte hi aapka paisa aapke savings mein transfer ho jayega … aapke teen-char accounts khulwa dete hain…kitna amount hai ap khul ke bata dijiye (Your account will take 2 or 3 days to open and as soon as the account is open, your money will be transferred to your savings [account] … we will open three-four accounts for you … tell me what the amount is).” Gupta wants to know the quantum of cash we want to invest with her bank, so that she could plan it out.

A cash of Rs. 50–60 lakh is ready, promptly replies our reporter, and Rs. 5–7 crore is due in February.

Gupta says: “Account to hum apka khol denge 60 lakhs se… lekin jab paanch che crore aayega to fir uske liye to fir saving account … (We will open an account for you with Rs. 60 lakh. But when Rs. 5–6 crore comes, then for that another saving account …)?”

Give us a big locker to keep the cash, reporter is quick to place his wish list before her.
Gupta is ready to grant that wish as well: “Wo ho jayega koi dikkat nahin (That will be done).”
Then turning to her subordinate Ajay, she directs him: “Sir ka account khulna hai urgently char accounts… aur cash uthana hai 60 lakh (We have to open account for Sir, urgently … four accounts … and also pick up Rs. 60 lakh cash).”

Turning to our reporter, she then explains how she will do the job: “Aaj hi ke din aap chahte hain to aaj hi kara denge…main apko ek sach bata rahi hun. Aaj Saturday hai bank dedh baje band ho chuka hai…mujhe jo bhi cash loongi…main receipt mein dikhaoongi…receiving main aaj ke date ki doongi…lekin humare yahan jo account mein entry hogi wo Monday ko hogi… main late receipt dikhaoongi … uske baad wahan se paisa aapka uthake main dalwaoongi long-term investment mein (If you want it today, then I can go for it. Let me tell you a fact. Today is Saturday and the bank has already been closed at 1.30 pm. Whatever cash I will take, I will show it in receipt. I will give you the receiving on today’s date itself. But the entry here in the bank will be made on Monday. I will give you a late receipt …then after picking up the money from there I will put it in long-term investment).”

Fine! Give me 10 minutes, says the reporter, I will give you the go ahead after I speak to my master, the minister, over phone. Now, the point is clear.

Gupta keeps on explaining why she asked for the money: “Kyonki jo cheez …jab tak main janoongi nahin main puchoongi nahin main aage badh nahin bataoongi (Because until I know the thing, I ask you about it, I will not be able to move forward).”

After dabbling on various aspects of the investments and the mode of returns, Gupta suggests the reporter to withdraw the bonuses only after the maturity of investment, to avoid tax and thus disclosure. We are not worried about the returns, says our reporter, and you know what our motive is.

Satisfied, our reporter comes back to lockers to keep the big cash. Gupta says reassuringly: “Dekhiye jab mota paisa aayega tab cabinet aa jayegi… ek toh humare paas hai hi bada…abhi chahiye nahin toh aapka ho jayega… agar nahin hua to main kahin se bhi arrange kara doongi jab mere paas cabinet aaya toh main aapko transfer kara doongi (See when that hefty sum arrives, the cabinet will come by then. A big one we already have … if you don’t want it now then it will be done. If it does not happen then I will arrange it for you somewhere else and when we have the cabinet, we will get it transferred).”

Interestingly, after agreeing to help us every way to convert black money into white, Gupta wants to make it sure that the source of money is not hawala or money laundering, asking innocently: “Bus thoda sa mujhe aap se yeh cheez karna hoga ki aapko mujhe confidence mein ye dena hai ki ye anti-money ya hawala ka paisa toh nahin hai (I would have to seek one thing from you … that this money is not out of anti-money (laundering) or hawala … give me some confidence on it).”

I have already told you this is minister’s money and you know how they earn, says the reporter, helplessly.

Understanding the point, Gupta again seeks to know who this secretive minister is. Why worry when you can meet him in person, avers our reporter, dodging her probing question. Come over to my residence with your colleagues after I inform you of the time to move forward on the investment. Don’t do anything in hotchpotch, pleads the reporter. In other words, she should not rush things.

Gupta say: “Hotchpotch main bhi nahin chahti … dekhiye kal ko agar kal ko query koi aati hai … (I also don’t want it to be hotchpotch … look, tomorrow if there is some query…).”
We also don’t want to get into any kind of trouble, reassures the reporter. More than anybody else, we would never like to have any troubles later on.

An understanding Gupta adds: “Chinta mat kijiye agar humlog sab confidence mein kaam kar rahe hain… toh koi problem aapko aayegi nahi (Don’t worry if we all are working in confidence, then there shall be no problem for you).”

While the reporter enjoys tea, Gupta discusses about the modalities of investment with her subordinates. Tea over, Gupta asks the reporter to inform her at the earliest so that she can arrange for picking the cash the same day. The reporter is also eager to deliver the cash to her bank.

Sensing she is close to clinching the deal, Gupta avers: “Wo hi hai agar aaj ho jaata toh kal … agar aap raat ko bolenge to mujhe branch open karne mein dikkat hogi … agar Sunday hai toh Sunday ko bhi main branch bund hoti hai Sunday ko cash utha kar fir vault mein nahin rakh paaoongi … mere paas abhi time hai ki aap mujhe ek ghante bhi bolenge to main aapka wait karti hun … doh ghante ke liye hum wait kar lenge … aaj mein hi (That is why if it could be done today itself … if you tell me in the evening then it will be difficult for me to open the branch … if it is for Sunday then the branch remains closed on Sunday and I will not be able to keep the cash in the vaults …I have time now … so if you tell me it has to be done in an hour, I can wait for you … we can wait for two hours …do it today itself).”

Our reporter reassures he will definitely get the deal cleared by the minister in 10 minutes. There is one more important point to discuss, says the reporter: The minister’s wife often goes to England. Can we send some of the Rs. 5–7 crore to some of her relatives there with the help of her bank? Gupta says she will help: “Humare paas document hain apne account mein paisa rehta hai … outer banking suvidha usmein hota … (If we have documents … there is money our account … we have a facility for outer banking …).”

Thus satisfied on all counts, our reporter takes their leave with a word to get back to Gupta in 10 minutes.

A. Gupta’s reaction to the investigation: She accepted what she had promised, but when the reporter reveals his true identity she straightaway went into denying everything.

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