Saturday, November 10, 2012

‘HSBC arranged for opening of accounts abroad and withdrawal from Delhi itself’

NEW DELHI, November 10, 2012

India Against Corruption (IAC) released on Friday "the modus operandi" for transfer of undisclosed funds to Swiss banks as disclosed in the statements of three persons who had opened accounts in Dubai, Zurich and Geneva with HSBC Bank. They were named in a list of 700, which was shared by the French government in a compact disc with the Indian government last year.

The names of the 10 VIPs, including the Ambanis, Congress MP Anu Tandon, Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal and the Burman brothers of the Dabur Group, were among the 700 whose names were not revealed by the government. The accounts held by them pertained to 2006.

IAC members Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan said Parminder Singh Kalra and Praveen Sawhney, who gave their statements, were based in Delhi, while the third person, Vikram Dhirani, was from Ghaziabad.

The persons, who were questioned under Section 132 (4)/133A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, revealed the modus operandi of the "underground banking" system or the 'hawala' network (money transferred but not moved).

As per the papers released by IAC at a press conference here, Mr. Dhirani said in his deposition that he had opened an account with HSBC in Dubai in 2005 and closed it in 2006. A bank representative came to him in Delhi to open an account. He did not travel to Dubai for opening or operating it. The formalities was completed in Delhi. He agreed that a person authorised by bank officials would collect the cash from him, which would show up in his HSBC account in Dubai. After the money was deposited, Mr. Dhirani was given a confirmation. However, no document was given.

IAC said the statement revealed that Mr. Dhirani told income tax officials that he had deposited about Rs. 12 crore in alleged unaccounted income in the Dubai account over a period of time. The account was closed in 2006, and the money was withdrawn and given to him in Delhi. Neither did he go to Dubai to collect the cash, nor did he arrange for his representative to take the cash on his behalf. "The bank officials arranged for delivery of cash… in India."

According to IAC, Mr. Kalra opened an account with HSBC, Zurich, on the advice of a Swiss investment consultant based in Zurich. To make deposits of undisclosed money to the tune of Rs. 8 crore-Rs. 9 crore, he gave the cash in instalments to a person in Delhi. Every time, a different person came to collect the cash for being remitted in the Zurich branch of HSBC. The account was closed in 2008-09 even while he remained in Delhi.

"The statement shows," Mr. Kejriwal said, "that bank officials are providing illegal channels for transfer of cash from their client account-holder in Delhi to Zurich and vice versa."

He said Mr. Sawhney, who had opened an account with HSBC, Geneva, told income tax officials that his father had transferred $ 1.8 million to this account. "Regarding the modus operandi for withdrawal of money, Mr. Sawhney said he used to call the bank officials in Geneva who would arrange for delivery of cash in India through their agents in the hawala channel. All discussions with the bank officials were on the phone. Every time he asked for cash, a different person used to come to deliver it and he knew none of them."
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