Anil Thakraney: Dirty laundry: Cobra’s shocking expose

15 Mar,2013

By Anil Thakraney

 

I was not very impressed with Aniruddha Bahal’s literary efforts, but am a huge fan of his stinging journalistic skills. Along with Tarun Tejpal (Tehelka), and now at his own venture (Cobrapost), Bahal has planned and executed some fantastic exposes. The most memorable being the one on match-fixing in cricket, and the other one on Indian parliamentarians accepting cash to ask questions. Both shook the nation.

 

Cobrapost’s latest sting operation is equally shocking and depressing. Even as the government finds new ways to burden the aam aadmi with more taxes, it appears the rich have been happily legalizing their ill-gotten wealth, not by flying to Switzerland, but by paying a visit to the friendly neighbourhood desi bank. Cobrapost’s investigation reveals how, across the length and breadth of the country, well-known banks like HDFC, ICICI and Axis, coolly and helpfully help you launder your dirty money.

 

What’s totally staggering about the story is this: The laundering process operates as a very well oiled machine, with staffers down the line aware of its existence, some even adept at handling it. This means the racket has been going on for a long time. And two, the innovative options these banks provide to wash your funds. These include offering insurance policies for cash, opening benami accounts, using accounts of their other customers to channelize the monies, offering lockers for safe keep, and so on. It’s in fact, well, a laundry list! Every single method totally illegal, and in brazen contravention of the RBI guidelines.

 

Excellent work, and it must have taken Cobrapost months (and a lot of leg work) to execute this story. Full marks to the team. We need more stories like this because money laundering directly hits the financial health of the nation. Of course, the key question is: Will anything come out of this story? Perhaps not. Obviously many netas have been washing their dirty linen at these laundries, so you can well imagine the outcome. But, a journalist must do his/her job, and that’s what the Cobrapost team has done.

 

I must add here that two years ago I had a very nasty experience with my bank. Not only were they mishandling my account, they were always rude, and were very thrilled to see me go. I was surprised at the time, but it all seems to add up now. Why bother about genuine customers when the real moolah lies with the fake ones?

 

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PS: Haha. Brilliant commercial by Volkswagen Beetle. Simple and highly entertaining. The power of lateral thinking at work.

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