cobrapost |
July 26, 2011


“Mantriji’s name will not come to light ever.” – Ranjan

In this branch of ICICI Bank somewhere in South Delhi, the Cobrapost journalist is taken to meet R. Ranjan who looks after investments.
After exchanging pleasantries the reporter, posing as a relative of a politician, gets down to brass tacks. A known politician wants to invest Rs. 50 lakh in some safe long-term instrument, with no taxes but with good returns. The money has to be invested in three names: the frontman, our own reporter, his wife and the politician’s wife. Ranjan begins to talk about a 5-year investment plan.

But would the returns come in white, asks our reporter? It will be credited directly to your account, says Ranjan. Would it be routed through the account then, the reporter asks again? Yes, replies Ranjan.

Our reporter tells Ranjan that the investment has to be done in cash. Ranjan: “Cash ka … aap ek aise account mein daal lijiye jo aap declare nahin kar rahe hain (Of cash. You put it in an account which you have not declared).”

Go ahead and open an account if you want to do it through one, he tells the reporter. On being told that the minister wants to invest the cash in a safe manner, Ranjan seeks a meeting with him: “Theek hai Sir wo fir aap ek baar meeting fix kara likiye iska dekh lete hain (Alright Sir, then fix up a meeting with him. We will then see what we have to do about it).” But then won’t it be premature to engage a big politician like him in such details? Why don’t you explain everything to me, suggests our reporter, before meeting the politician? Ranjan agrees.

So, you will invest through an account or through some other method, asks the reporter again. Yes, it will be done through an account, replies Ranjan. Then how much can you do in cash comfortably through account, asks the reporter, so that there is no problem later?

Ranjan says: “Koi problem nahin hoti jab tak until and unless aap usko check nahin karte … unka naam to kahin ayega nahin … aap logon kaa naam ayega … aap logon ka naam to waise bhi highlight nahin hoga …unka naam aya toh highlight ho jayega …wahi to mantriji ka naam kahin bhi nahin … usmein ho jayega main aapko way out bata doonga but haan payment hum cheque se hi lenge …matlab account ke through hi lenge payment aapki (There is no problem unless and until someone checks it. His name will not come anywhere. Your names will come. However, your names would not be highlighted but his name would certainly … exactly Mantriji’s name will not come to light ever. That will be done. I will tell you the way out but yes we will accept the payment by cheque only. I mean we will take your payment through account only).”

I didn’t get you, says the reporter. Do you mean the account opening cheque?

This is exactly what I mean, says Ranjan. No problem, says a relieved reporter. So, is it the safest method, asks the reporter?

Ranjan: “Sabse safe method hai (It is the safest method).”

Ranjan starts educating the reporter again on the various avenues of investments including the one with a maturity period of 15 years. The minister is expecting another Rs. 7 crore in March, the reporter informs the banker. What we need most is safety of our money and turning it into white, amid total secrecy, says the reporter.

Ranjan asks the client to not worry: “Ye cheezein confidential hoti hain koi disclose nahin hota (Such things are confidential. Nothing is disclosed).”

Ranjan is an experienced banker having worked with ICICIC for the past 5 years. Has he ever handled similar clients and helped them invest in this way?

Says a smiling Ranjan: “Haan hain clients hain … haan haan wo clients hain … daala hua hai safe hai … isiliye aapko bataya … maine pehle hi clear ki itna cash hum (Yes, yes we have clients… yes, yes, we have such clients … that is why I told you … I have made it clear that so much cash …).”

You have already told me the method, that it will be done through an account, interjects the reporter. That is all we want. Then, Ranjan goes on to say he will require a PAN apart from ID proof and other credentials. But giving the PAN will spill the beans, counters the reporter. Ranjan says: “Nahin hogi problem … PAN card hum kabhi disclose nahin karte … haan sirf RBI guidelines ke through hota hai … jab bhi pachaas hazaar se upar ka transaction hota hai to ek PAN card hona chahiye … PAN card disclose kahin nahin hota (There will be no problem … we never disclose the PAN card … yes this is done through RBI guidelines … whenever there is a transaction higher than Rs. 50,000, then PAN is a must … PAN card is not disclosed).”

Does he mean everything is done as per RBI guidelines, even such shady transactions as this? Or is he hinting at certain loopholes in the system?

The minister is expecting Rs. 4-5 crore soon. So, we will put in our money where it is safe because if the opposition gets to know of this, it will give them a handle to beat him with. Ranjan explains how such an eventuality can be avoided: “Isiliye main bata raha hun ki jaise aapne bola na pachaas lakh ek baar … pachaas lakh ek baar ek shot mein kabhi nahin lagana hai … usko dheere dheere daalna hai ki disclose na ho … paanch mahine chheh maine ke interval mein daala taki badhte chala gaya (That is why I am telling you that as you said Rs. 50 lakh in one go. Never put in Rs. 50 lakh in one shot. Put it in gradually say in intervals of 5 months, 6 month so that it keeps on increasing).”

Discussing on how deposits attract tax, the reporter tells him to invest the minister’s money in some safe investment with guaranteed returns and no tax deduction. The point is that if tax is deducted, it will come to light whose money this is and that’s the last thing we want.

Ranjan says there will be no tax deduction: “Isiliye to TDS katega to hi pata chalta hai jo aisa instrument hai jahan TDS na kate to pata nahin chalta (That is why if there is TDS only then would it come to light. Then there are instruments where there is no TDS so nobody comes to know it).”

A locker is needed. Ranjan says: “Bada locker to commit nahin kar paoonga … medium dila doonga (I will not be able to commit the bigger one … I will get you the medium one).” But he agrees to get two medium-sized lockers.

Then he asks: “Yahin zaroori hai … ki aas-paas mein kara doon … Lajpat Nagar IV mein khali hain bahut (You want it essentially here only or should I get it for you nearby. There are many running empty at Lajpat Nagar).” But will it be made available the moment we arrive at the branch?

No, that will not be possible, better get it issued beforehand, advises Ranjan: “Nahin to pehle aapko locker issue karana hoga … maano dus March ko payment aa raha hai to February mein locker issue kara lo chaabi lelo apne paas (No, you will have to get the locker issued first … suppose the payment is coming in March, then get the locker issued in February and take the keys).”

But would the branch provide us with a counting machine to count the entire cash of Rs. 5–7 crore in bills of 500? If need be, can the bank change the 500 bills to 1000 bills, asks the reporter? Ranjan: “Theek hai hum dekhte hain wo to hum kara lenge (Ok, let us see … that we will do).”

Finally, our reporter asks Ranjan to bring a senior colleague in the evening to the minister’s residence to take the deal forward. Ranjan agrees to bring his superior A. Kumar.

One final question, though. The minister’s wife often goes to England. Would the bank help to transfer some of the cash from the Rs. 5–7 crore to England?

Ranjan declines to help. This would be too difficult to handle as it would require a certificate from the CA. Things like that. No problem, says the reporter.

Before the meeting ends, Ranjan takes the reporter to his boss Kumar, the Deputy Branch Manager. The reporter briefs him about the investment to be done on behalf of the minister, how it has to be done and how important it is to maintain secrecy.

Kumar asks for the name of the politician: “Naam to bata do boss (Tell me the name, Boss).” But aren’t we meeting in the evening, asks the reporter? Kumar says: “Main aa jaoonga (I will come).” Ranjan briefs his superior about the client’s needs, including the need for a locker. Kumar says: “Wo sub karwa denge (All that will be arranged).”

Our reporter says: “Cash ka matter hai thoda sa samajh rahe hain usi ko invest karna hai black white (This is a matter of some cash … understand it … which has to be invested to make black white).”

The meeting ends with an agreement to take things forward at the minister’s house in the evening.

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