Charging the country’s three big private sector banks with being involved in money laundering in the wake of a recent media expose, a demand was made in the Rajya Sabha on Monday for a CBI probe into the matter and cancellation of their licences if found guilty.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, C M Ramesh (TDP) said a sting operation by an online portal exposed that officials of ICICI, HDFC and Axis Bank had agreed to receive unverified huge sums of cash to put them in their investment schemes and benami accounts in violation of money laundering laws.

“To boost their deposits, these banks had agreed to receive huge amounts of cash. They are converting black money into white. This is clear evidence that these banks are clearly involved in money laundering in violation of money laundering laws,” he said questioning the functioning of such private sector banks.

Mr. Ramesh said since the incident was exposed, HDFC Bank has suspended 20 officials involved while ICICI has suspended 18.

“This is a very serious issue. There is a possibility that it may even spread to nationalised banks. Direct the CBI to investigate. Punish the guilty and cancel their licences if found guilty. Tighten the laws and regulations,” he said, while demanding a CBI investigation into the matter.

Prakash Javadekar (BJP) questioned the probes initiated by private banks asking as to what was the point in banks investigating it themselves. “This should be probed by the government,” he said.

Last week, a web news portal had played the contents of a purported video recording of officials of private banks allegedly agreeing to receive unverified sums of cash and put them in their investment schemes and benami accounts in violation of anti-money laundering laws.

The footage taken in ‘Operation Red Spider’ purportedly shows a number of senior executives of the three banks verbally agreeing to take huge amounts of cash from the undercover reporter and putting them into a variety of long-term investment plans so that the black money ultimately is converted into white.