ICICI Bank branch manager duped depositors of crores for years to meet targets

ICICI Bank branch manager duped depositors of crores for years to meet targets

An ICICI Bank branch manager and his aides managed to meet their business performance targets for years by withdrawing money out of the bank accounts of unsuspecting account holders of the branch. They withdrew this money to create an illusion of opening new FD, current and savings accounts.

However, someone got to know about it and started blackmailing the bank branch officials. To cover up their misdeeds, their act of misappropriation of money went to the next level and more money was taken out of the bank accounts of customers and was used to pay an Udaipur-based individual as hush money.

Rajasthan Police officials have confirmed that till date about Rs 2.5 crore has been paid as hush money to that Udaipur-based individual who has been blackmailing the ICICI Bank branch manager.

According to Amit Kumar, Superintendent of Police (SP), Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, the preliminary investigations have revealed that the branch manager and his accomplices did this misappropriation due to the pressure of meeting business performance targets. These officials had been creating overdrafts against FDs and using the money from the overdraft to open new current accounts, saving accounts and FD accounts. This technique is called ‘Entry and Reverse Entry’ in banking parlance. After a few days the newly created current accounts, saving accounts and FD accounts would be closed, and the money would be routed back to the source bank accounts. This operation has been running for years.
Speaking exclusively about the incident narrated in this article an ICICI Bank spokesperson said, “We would like to reassure that there will be no financial loss to genuine customers. Further, we have a zero-tolerance policy towards fraud, and hence the employee, who was found involved prima facie, has been suspended pending further investigation. We have also filed a complaint with Police and are co-operating in their investigation.”

The press release by the Rajasthan Police says that the amount embezzled was Rs 2.5 crore, however, ICICI Bank officials say that it was Rs 2 crore.

Did the scam at the ICICI Bank Pratapgarh branch result in any financial loss?

According to SP Kumar, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed on February 7, 2024, under the direction of ASP Bhagchand Meena. Cyber and financial forensic experts were also part of the SIT.This team did a thorough interrogation of the accused branch manager. They investigated the unauthorised operation and misappropriation of money. They also consulted the affected account holders and analysed their bank statements to find out the truth.

According to SP Kumar, it was a financial fraud that resulted in the loss of money, but police are yet to figure out from which exact bank account(s) the money was taken out. The accused bank manager has been running this scam for quite some time and no proper records have been maintained. The branch employees were matching and reversing the transactions without any knowledge about the scam being run.

Police also shared the data about the money and property linked with the alleged scamsters that they have seized. According to SP Kumar, till date they have frozen 62 bank accounts used for the scam which had a balance of Rs 62,71,490. Moreover, they also found and seized Rs 46 lakh in cash. They also seized the gold which was kept as lien for a gold loan taken by the Udaipur-based individual who was blackmailing the branch manager.

According to the police, there have been 19 cases of murder, attempt to murder, extortion, etc ongoing against this Udaipur-based individual who was blackmailing the bank branch manager after he found out about the ongoing scam.

Police have found paper trail evidence which helped them conclude that Rs 45 lakh (syphoned from the bank) was used by the said Udaipur-based individual to partly finance the purchase of a farmhouse worth Rs 3 crore. Police have seized this farmhouse since they have found evidence that money from the bank was partly used to purchase it.

Why did the scam surface now after so many years?

The scam which has been running for many years came to light only because an employee noticed that about Rs 70 lakh was missing from her friend’s bank account. The employee’s friend was privy to the ongoing scam, and he was informed that Rs 70 lakh would be withdrawn from his account and after 3 to 4 days it would be returned to his account. “However, the money was never reversed back to the individual’s account, and this raised suspicion of the bank employee,” says SP Kumar.

The said employee then confronted the branch manager and did not get a satisfactory reply and then sought their (Police’s) help. Which led to this chain of revelations exposing this scam.

What did ICICI Bank do after they got to know about this scam?

Manoj Bhowrani, regional head, ICICI Bank, Banswara sent a letter on February 6, 2024, informing the Rajasthan police department about the scam which the bank’s employee was responsible for. The letter by Bhowrani also mentioned the modus operandi of the scam.

An extract of the letter submitted to Rajasthan Police by Manoj Bhowrani read, “I want to inform you through this letter that this morning account holders of ICICI Bank Dhariyawad branch, came to the branch and inquired about their fixed deposits, on checking which it was found that there was no balance in those fixed deposits. By making OD against those fixed deposits wrongly and without the knowledge of the customers, the amount has been fraudulently withdrawn from those OD accounts. The mobile numbers of the customers have also been wrongly updated in those OD accounts. The amount embezzled in this entire case is Rs 2,00,00,000/-, there is a possibility of increase in the amount in further investigation. All the customers have also lodged their complaints in the branch Dhariyawad. That is also attached with this letter. It seems that this whole matter is of fraud with customers. Therefore, Sir, I request you to conduct an impartial investigation into this entire matter and appropriate action should be taken against the culprits.”

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