Note ban: ED files 1st money laundering chargesheet against Axis Bank staff

A cashier counts Indian rupee currency notes inside a bank in Mumbai December 6, 2013. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed its first chargesheet in money laundering cases resulting from demonetisation against officials of an Axis bank branch and others for alleged illegal conversion of scrapped currency notes.

The agency filed the chargesheet, called prosecution complaint in the ED parlance, before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court on Thursday.

The agency has named two bank officials, working at the Kashmere Gate branch in Delhi, Vineet Gupta (branch head) and Shobhit Sinha (operations head) who with “active connivance” of a private person Rajeev S Kushwaha deposited “huge amount of demonetised currency to the tune of Rs40 crore of various firms and companies run by Kushwaha for a huge commission and converted it into monetised form like (real time gross settlement) RTGS transfers and gold.”

The case was first detected by Delhi Police after it intercepted three persons with about Rs3.7 crore cash in old notes in front of the Axis Bank branch in November last year. The ED took cognisance of the police FIR and slapped money laundering charges against the accused. The trio was arrested by it in December last year under PMLA and are currently in judicial custody.

Detailing their modus operandi, the agency said, the trio used to “deposit money after banking hours at around 6:00 PM The money deposited in these accounts was transferred to different accounts within minutes to different companies through Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS).

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No suspicious transaction reports (STRs) were filed by the bank officials and the depoits were made without authorisation, bypassing banking formalities.” ED said, “It all started when following demonetisation (on November 8, 2016) people with illegal money began converting their old currency notes into gold/legal tender. These bullion traders wanted payments in RTGS/transfer of money through banking channel for the sale of gold as old currency was not accepted.

“Some of such elements contacted Kushwaha and his associates for this purpose. Kushwaha was having various fictitious companies/firms namely Ms Himalaya International, Ms RD Trader and Ms Beagle Marketing and Ms Sunrise Trading.”

The chargesheet further said: “They (Kushwaha and others) contacted Gupta and Sinha to get special facilities to put the old currency into the banking system through their fictitious/shell companies having current account in Kashmere Gate branch by offering huge commission.”

Kushwaha and his associates collected old currency charging huge commission from various people and infused that money into the banking system and acted against the law. “The amount so deposited in these companies’ account was transferred to various bullion traders for procurement of gold which was given to the person who had given them their illegal money in old currency,” it said.

The agency had also attached assets belonging to Gupta and others worth Rs3.4 crore. ED probe had also found that huge amount of money was transferred through RTGS to some shell companies including in a case where the Director of a firm was a “petty labourer” living in a slum in ‘Anna Nagar jhuggi’ camp in the national capital. “It was also found that directors of other shell companies were also persons of no means,” the ED had said earlier.