An online magazine says they have channelled ‘black money into the regular banking system’

An online magazine, Cobrapost, on the basis of a sting operation conducted over several months, has alleged that three major banks are involved in channelling ‘vast amounts of black money into the regular banking system as laundered white money.’

At a news conference here on Thursday, the magazine’s executives released video footage, recorded largely by hidden cameras, showing some employees of three banks — HDFC, ICICI and Axis — purportedly offering to convert black money into white. The Hindu cannot vouch for the authenticity of the video footage.

The three banks in separate statements have denied the charges and said that they are ready to investigate if any specific instances are brought to their notice.

“This huge money-laundering racket being run by these banks has been captured by Cobrapost, on video-tape, running into hundreds of hours.

“The evidence is graphic, crystal-clear and clinching.

“The investigation finds the banks and their managements systematically and deliberately violating several provisions of the Income Tax Act, FEMA, RBI regulations, KYC norms, the Banking Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) with utter disregard to consequences, driven by their desire to boost cheap deposits and thereby increasing their profits,” a statement by the online magazine claimed.

The magazine has charged that the banks offered to accept black money and invest it in insurance products and other bank services.

They also allegedly offered lockers to stash away the black money and offered to open accounts without adhering to RBI guidelines and use ‘benami’ accounts to facilitate the conversion of the black money and keep the identity of the depositor a secret.

The Finance Ministry said it has asked the banks for more details.

“The RBI has contacted the banks involved... we have asked banks for more details on the expose,” Banking Secretary Rajiv Takru said here.

The Reserve Bank is collecting information regarding the alleged acts of money laundering by the country’s three largest private sector banks, its Deputy Governor Urjit Patel said. “The RBI is in touch with the banks. At the moment, that is all I can say... We are collecting information,” Mr. Patel told reporters on the sidelines of the Exim Bank’s annual commencement day lecture here.

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