THE ENFORCEMENT Directorate (ED) claims to have busted a money laundering racket, which helped exchange demonetised currency amounting to Rs 39 crore for gold, through banking channels and a maze of shell companies that had daily wagers as directors.
The agency has arrested two managers of Axis Bank’s Kashmiri Gate branch in Delhi and recovered gold bars weighing more than 3 kg. Axis Bank has suspended both officials.
On November 22, the Delhi Police had intercepted three people carrying Rs 3.7 crore in demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes in front of the branch. The ED initiated a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
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During its probe, and interrogation of arrested bank managers Vinit Gupta and Shashank Sinha, it was revealed that after demonetisation, some jewellers accepted old currency while selling gold at inflated prices of Rs 50,000 per 10 gm. The cash was allegedly laundered through shell companies, in connivance with bank managers, converting black money into white.
Three entry operators identified as Rajeev Kushwaha, a chartered accountant, Devendra Kumar Jha and Raj Kumar Sharma were also allegedly involved. According to ED sources, the jewellers gave Rs 39 crore cash in scrapped currency to these operators, who deposited them in Axis Bank accounts of shell companies — Sunrise Trading Company, Himalaya International, and RD Traders, among others. The cash was reportedly deposited in tranches of Rs 90 lakh to Rs 99 lakh between November 10 and 22.
These deposits were then transferred the same day through RTGS to Beagle Marketing Pvt Ltd, another shell company allegedly managed and controlled by Rajiv Kushwaha, a source in ED said.
“Investigation found that one of the directors of Beagles Marketing, identified as Ram Charan, is a daily wage labourer from a slum in Delhi’s Anna Nagar Jhuggi Camp,” said an ED official. “He expressed ignorance about the company… directors of other shell companies were also people of no means.”
According to the source, from Beagles Marketing the funds were further transferred through RTGS to various bullion traders in lieu of gold bars. “Although invoices were raised in the name of Beagle Marketing, the gold was delivered to jewellers, and then sold to buyers at Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 per 10gms,” the source explained.
The two bank officers allegedly took a two-per cent commission on the cash deposited. “This gratification was given to the bank mangers in the form of gold bars,” the ED said.