Government asks financial firms to probe money laundering allegations

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) The government Monday asked top financial institutions, including State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and the Life Insurance Corporation, to probe into the allegations of money laundering as exposed in a sting operation by an investigative website Cobrapost.

Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Takru has asked the chairman-cum-managing directors of various Public Sector Banks (PSBs) to probe the allegations, the finance ministry said in a statement.

“Any officer/employee of your bank/institution who clearly appears to be advising potential customers along lines that would be an infringement of the legal process/could facilitate money laundering/could defeat the KYC norms or the norms of due diligence prescribed by RBI and the law from time to time, may be placed under suspension with immediate effect pending inquiry,” it said.

“The bank may initiate a detailed scrutiny of such officerÂ’s work and institute a special audit, if necessary, for this purpose. The inquiry must be initiated and completed expeditiously.” it added.

Cobrapost has alleged in a sting operation that at least 23 top public and private banks and insurance companies have been doing large-scale money laundering. Several of the firms named denied the allegation.

“Money laundering practices are part and parcel of banking and insurance business across the board. Even a walk-in customer can avail of such services that help him launder all his unaccounted cash,” Cobrapost said in a press release.

The website claimed that it found large-scale wrongdoing by banks and financial institutions through an undercover operation run for nearly six months in various states and union territories, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

It has named 23 public and private sector banks and insurance companies. Public sector firms include State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, IDBI Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Dena Bank, Corporation Bank, Allahabad Bank, Central Bank of India, and their insurance associates.

Private sector firms include Yes Bank, Dhanlaxmi Bank, Federal Bank, DCB Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, and their insurance arms.

The website has also named LIC of India, Reliance Life Insurance, Birla Sunlife, and Tata AIG.

Several of these firms denied the allegations. SBI chairman Pratip Chaudhuri said: “As far as we have understood, there is nothing serious.”

“We have zero tolerance for money laundering and will take action on those found to be flouting norms,” Chaudhuri said reacting to the allegations.

Reliance Capital termed the allegations baseless.

“We categorically deny the baseless allegations in relation to any involvement of the Company in money-laundering by customers of our life insurance business,” Reliance Capital said in a statement.

“Reliance Life adheres to strict internal controls, processes and best practices and is in full compliance with the KYC norms and regulatory framework,” it said.

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