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I was shocked today (22nd March, 2013), when in ET I read the headlines "Allegations Don't Mean Banks Are Flouting Norms, says Chakrabarty - Deputy Governor Dismisses Money Laundering Allegations says system are 'upto the mark'.
I am aware that Mr Chakrabarty is in the habit of using his God gifted assets to create flutters through his comments. For this reason, usually I do not take cognizance of such comments and just ignore them. This time I am not able to ignore these comments as these comments will have wide ramifications. I know, it is extremely difficult to control Mr Chakrabarty for issuing controversial statements. In a rare and harsh move Mr Subbarao, Governor, RBI was able to snub him a few years back when Mr Chakrabarty was striped off his major responsibilities and left with charge of "Rajyabhash", on account of irresponsible statement which he issued without the concurrence of RBI Governor. That snub had a soothing effect for few months, However, with Mr SubbaRao now having lesser time to be in office, Mr Chakrabarty appears to be again in his real roller coaster mode.
Before we dwell upon the pros and cons of such a statement, let us see, what headlines have appeared in media based on Mr Chakrabarty's statement. I searched through Google, and was more shocked by reading just headlines. Some of such headlines which makes a mockery of Cobrapost exposes are :-
(a) Chakrabarty : Anti Laundering Control System is Perfect - Indian Express
(b) Cobrapost sting trashed by RBI, says no money laundering at ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank - Indian Express
(c) Chakrabarty pooh-poohs money laundering charge - The Hindu
(d) Chakrabarty downplays Cobrapost exposť - Business Standard
Some extracts from the above reports include the following : -
"(We) cannot take action on mere allegations. Our money laundering systems are up to the mark, there are sufficient guidelines" - Economic Times
"Chakrabarty said the current guidelines are for avoiding
money laundering are enough and there will be always some transactional issues
when there are large number of happening daily. One canít monitor all
transactions he said". (Business Standard).
"The senior most Deputy Governor further said, "there is no scam (that) has happened...as no transaction has taken place.... Let us not unnecessarily downgrade ourself. Our system to prevent money laundering is perfect, absolutely nothing (wrong with it),"
Even a casual reading of above headlines, by a man on the street, it will be concluded that Cobrapost sting is rubbish, Indian prevention of Money Laundering Systems is Perfect. Indian banks are above board".
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The above will be interpreted by corrupt bankers to mean "You
can tell anybody anything even on camera for bringing business to bank and earn
higher commissions, and you will not be questioned either by your bank or RBI till a
transaction is actually caught on camera. This mean you can mis-sell or discuss all the methods available at banks to launder black money
(even on camera) and RBI will exonerate all such talks.
Corrupt bankers need not feel downgraded even if they suggest
the walking in customers about the virtues of evading tax, violating rules and
the methods to cheat the nation. It is perfectly all right to indulge into
such activities till you are caught on camera with the illegal money ".
If SC too had gone by similar logics, Mr Sanjay Dutt would have been exonerated
as Police never found any arms in his possession. It was only when he was
taken in police custody and remanded that he confessed that he possessed the
arms for a brief period. I am sure if all the bankers caught on camera by
Cobrapost are taken into police custody and introgated for few hours, a plethora
of material will emerge where banks had used illegal means to launder the black
money. It will throw flood lights on the ways the top bosses in
banking industry cajole and threaten lower staff to achieve the targets.
Why RBI has not asked three banks to file FIR against such
corrupt bankers who on camera have been suggesting anti national methods for
laundering the black money?
ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank top brass will now barge in the open by saying "See we told you there is nothing wrong, even RBI DG has supported us and exonerated of any wrong doings".
Great comments by a Great DG. I find great similarity in these comments with those of Congress politicians, who fell upon each other to issue statements when Mr Robert Vadra was merely charged for wrong doings in land deals with DLF. Even FM immediately came with statements exonerating Vadra and DLF of any wrong doings. That was the signal sent to investigation teams as to how they should draft their findings. In this case too, a person no less than the rank of DG of RBI addresses the press and exonerates all the Banks under cloud even before investigations have began. Is this a message to investigation team as to how they should draft their final report ? If DG RBI is so sure about these Banks and the upto mark / perfect systems in place for prevention of Money Laundering in banking system, then why was RBI had ordered an investigation. Is it merely a cover up operation ? Do RBI wants to absolve itself of any fall out of such investigation. or does it give a signal that Mr Chakrabarty has taken its first step to enter corrupt politics soon. .
I think this statement from RBI top brass will go a long way in damaging the cause of cleaning the Indian banking system of its maladies. Corrupt bankers will now be emboldened and honest bankers will be cornered. I feel pity for this sad day in the Indian banking industry and wonder about the silence of Governor of RBI. Will Mr Subbarao make his position clear? Does he too holds similar views ? Hopes of one chance to clean up the system are now fading away. In case the expose of Cobrapost has been rubbished, I know the fate of my article. DG RBI will not even consider this to be worth reading and dubbed as rubbish. It will be below his dignity to read or consider the views of retired lower functionary of a bank. Anyway, like Cobrapost, we too will continue our duty to expose the double standards of our politicians, top brass of banking industry, and now even top brass of the regulators. I am sure the honest bankers from the core of their heart know the facts very well and the conditions prevailing as far as sale of third party products in the name of Wealth Management is considered.