The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday launched an operation to inquire about deposits at over 50 bank branches, with a special eye on Jan Dhan, student and dormant accounts, across the country to detect money laundering and hawala instances through these channels.
Multiple teams of the ED, accompanied by auditors from the Department of Financial Services in the Finance Ministry,swooped early morning at these branches of at least 10 banks,both in the private and public sector, to "unearth huge deviation in the pattern of deposits after November 8."
"The action has been taken in wake of allegations to the effect that certain bank officials are involved in conversion of black money into white in lieu of their commission for facilitating the same," the agency said in a statement.
The agency said it is keeping a watch on those accounts in which huge amount of money has been deposited postdemonetisation. ED said its sleuths are "also checking those accounts that have shown suspicious transactions after demonetisation.The teams inquired the accounts where sudden spike in deposits and thereafter corresponding transfers have taken place.
"Special accounts like Jan Dhan, student accounts and dormant accounts would also be the focus area of investigations." The agency conducted the operations at branches located in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad,Kolkata, Chennai and others based on records of transaction of these branches where the maximum amount of old notes have been deposited or huge cash has been deposited in bank accounts in one go or in a staggered fashion giving rise to suspicion of suspect deposits.
"Examination of cash book and ledger of banks on random basis were done to see which denomination notes and how much came out when business of the day started, notes deposited and received till the end of the day were analysed and verified. "Special attention was paid to third party deposits with or without authority letters including scrutiny of shell companies," it said at the end of operations late evening. The statement added that the inquiries were made to determine transactions "in light of RBI Notification ofNovember 8, 2016 which required every bank to submit detailsof exchange of currency in Annexure-6 on a daily basis.
"The ED, tasked with enforcing two important laws to checkfinancial crimes--Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)--had also sourcedSuspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Cash TransactionReports (CTRs) of the banks under scanner from various financial intelligence agencies before launching theoperation. The agency has arrested two Axis Bank employees working at a branch in Delhi and a Chartered Accountant while probing a similar instance of using old currency to allegedly convert black money into white. ED had also conducted searches at 40 locations across thecountry in order to check black money held with currencyexchanges, hawala dealers and others.