Demonetisation fraud: Court denies bail to private bank manager

NEW DELHI: A special court has denied bail to a suspended officer of a private bank who was arrested in a case of alleged irregularities in facilitating the conversion of about Rs 35 crore worth of demonetised currency.

Special Judge Hemani Malhotra dismissed the bail plea of Ashish Kumar, the then manager of Kotak Mahindra Bank, saying the allegations against him were serious and prima facie showed that he had cheated the government and public of crores of rupees.

Kumar, who is in custody since December 22, 2016 in another case, was arrested by the Delhi Police in this case on March 28 for alleged offences of cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery of a valuable security, using forged document as genuine and criminal conspiracy.

“The facts and circumstances thus prima facie reflect that accused (Kumar) cheated the government and general public to the tune of crores of rupees in a well-thought and systematic manner and was aided by coaccused and other associates of his who are still at large,” the court said.

The judge also said that since the allegations against the accused were “grave and serious in nature and the fact that investigation is still underway, I do not see any premise to grant bail to Ashish Kumar. Same is accordingly dismissed.”

Prosecution alleged that during the probe, it was found that co-accused Raj Kumar Goel and his associates were engaged in earning profits by routing money into various accounts by using forged documents. They received commission from the clients who either needed money by cheque or in cash.

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The accounts were opened by Goel and his associates in Kotak Mahindra Bank and ICICI Bank, Naya Bazar branch here. On November 8, 2016 when the government announced demonetisation, Goel conspired with Kumar, one chartered accountant and a mediator who used to bring demonetised currency to the bank to convert it into new notes and earned profits, it said.

It alleged that though Goel’s accounts were in different branches, Kumar and the chartered accountant allowed him to deposit old currency notes in the bank’s Connaught Place branch.

Prosecution alleged that after demonetisation, Goel opened accounts in Naya Bazar branch in the names of various companies and deposited Rs 34.75 crore in both the branches.

Kumar then issued demand drafts in the name of various fictitious persons, it said, adding that the accused were allegedly involved in deep rooted conspiracy to convert black money in old demonetised currency into new ones on commission basis and it was misappropriated by them for illegal monetary gains by violating guidelines of RBI and Ministry of Finance.

The court noted that the findings of departmental enquiry against Kumar concluded that he had accommodated coaccused Goel and one Ramesh Chand Sharma to deposit demonetised currency of Rs 31.75 crore in violation of internal controls.

He also allowed cash deposits of other branch customers without any intimation to or approval of the home branch, as was required under bank’s internal process, it noted.

Kumar’s counsel sought bail claiming that as per the RBI guidelines, a customer could have deposited any amount of money in his account in any branch of the bank and there was no restriction on the number of demand drafts a customer could have got prepared from his bank account from any branch.

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Regarding the allegations of commission claimed to have been received by him, he said no recovery has been made by the police which points at his innocence.

Public Prosecutor Atul Kumar Shrivastava opposed the bail plea saying the complicity of the accused was evident from the fact that in gross violation of bank’s guidelines issued the period of demonetisation, he accepted cash deposit of Rs 31.75 crore in nonhome branch, that is Connaught Place.

The prosecutor said as per the guidelines intimated to all senior officers including Kumar, cash amount of over Rs 25 lakh was to be deposited at the cash points at Kirti Nagar and not at the branches.

Source