The crowd at the press conference was smaller, the big screen was grainier, but the allegations were as stinging as it had been previously.
Online media firm Cobrapost.com on Monday made money laundering allegations against a wider set of banks and financial institutions and lashed out against the government and regulatory agencies’ attempt to play down its similar expose' in March.
Unveiling the video footage that had over a dozen public-sector banks and four private-sector banks in addition to the three named earlier and four life insurance firms, some of which are banking licence aspirants, Cobrapost editor Aniruddha Bahal told reporters, "Operation Red Spider 2 establishes beyond doubt that money laundering is not confined to private banks and is not an aberration as is being made out."
Bahal claimed that the undercover operation conducted by the firm's associate editor Syed Masroor Hasan clearly established that money laundering services are being offered openly as a standard product across the board and even a walk-in customer can avail of such services that help him launder all his unnacounted cash.
Bahal said the five banks were caught doing these in their Parliament Street branches itself. "Inki Kanoon yahan nahi chalegi toh aur kahan chalegi? (if the law doesn’t survive on the Parliament street, where else will it?)"
The stings were carried out over a period of six months across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Lashing out at the central bank, finance ministry and the banks, which were named in the first expose, Bahal said, "They have handed out clean chits to themselves on the premise that there were only violation of KYC (know your client) norms and as such "no money laundering took place because no transaction took place. This is absurd to say the least. The officials caught on tape have demonstrably stated that they would engage in money laundering for our reporter. According to their own statements, they have done this plenty of times in the past and are eager to do it again. This amounts to crystal clear offences under IPC as well as PMLA (Prevention of Money laundering activities Act). There is no ambiguity on this account whatsoever."
Further, Cobrapost also alleged that these transactions were not confined to a few low-level front office staff as was being made out by the banks in the "so-called inquiries."
"Our interactions with all officials some with the ranks of divisional manager, territory manager, assistant general manager and vice presidents with scores of branches under their charge, bear it out clearly that they are parties to and facilitators of these transactions," Bahal said.
Institutions named in the Cobrapost expose
State Bank of India
Bank of Baroda
Punjab National Bank
Indian Overseas Bank
Oriental Bank of Commerce
Central Bank of India
LIC of India
Reliance Life Insurance