A Punjab businessman was laughing all the way to the banks and his 85 accounts until the Enforcement Directorate caught up with him on Wednesday night as part of a crackdown on cash hoarders following the government's demonetisation drive.
Top revenue intelligence sources and insiders in the home and finance ministries say the currency switch is slowly finding public acceptance and people are aiding raiding teams with information about hoarders of new currency and those with bogus bank accounts and black money. As the drive gets more intense, the scanner is on bank managers and entry operators as a clear nexus between the two has emerged leading to a trail of big catches.
Top sources in the government confirmed that the ED laid its hands on two big cases of money laundering in 24 hours. MAIL TODAY has exclusive information about these two unreported cases, one from Jalandhar in Punjab and another from Kolkata in West Bengal.
The ED, after getting some input from public had raided on Wednesday night in Jalandhar and found the businessman with 85 bank accounts in his name.
"The matter has been referred to the CBI for further investigation," said a top official, requesting anonymity. In another case of money laundering involving a Jan Dhan account of a poor woman, a Kolkata-based businessman had used her account to transfer Rs 58 lakh.
"When we received this input from the financial intelligence unit of ED, the matter was pursued further and we later found that the businessman had actually transferred Rs 7 crore through RTGS using such mode.
This case will also be probed now by the CBI,'' said the source. There are many such arrests and confirmed hauls in the net of revenue intelligence teams currently raiding, but all cannot be revealed pending investigation, officials indicated. The ED has already conducted 67 raids on FEMA violators, 36 raids on those indulging in hawala transactions and surveyed about 50 banks under money laundering cloud.
Sources said the top leadership has given a free hand to raiding teams with a clear message that "no one will be spared" and after India Today TV's sting on money laundering, the influential and mighty are also in the "suspicious club."
Apart from bank managers, who are the first stop for account opening and transactions still in many parts of the country, data entry operators manage the computers and appropriate software for entering,updating, researching, verifying and retrieving data related to various transactions across systems. In one such case in Noida on Thursday, about 20 fake accounts were detected in an Axis Bank branch, with the company already facing the heat over similar cases.
The Income Tax department had raided the bank's Chandni Chowk branch last week and found Rs 100 crore deposited in 44 fake accounts. Such fake accounts and businessmen hoarding new currency are coming to light more now and with the Income Tax department, ED, CBI and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence along with local police gathering information in plainclothes from the public near banks and ATMs, the government is only going to make things tougher for hoarders, say officials.
Some states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Haryana Punjab, Goa and Odisha, are currently under constant monitoring by intelligence teams apart from cities like Delhi and Chandigarh. When asked what the government is doing with the new currency recovered, a senior official replied: "Nearly Rs 375 crore, including Rs 80 crore of new currency, has been found in raids by various agencies and it is being put back for public use through ATMs and banks."