KATHMANDU, Feb 15: Initial findings of a probe into the misappropriation of Indian currency (IC) case reveal staff members of some of the banks were involved in assisting the release of IC to unscrupulous importers who produced hundreds of fake customs declaration forms, falsely claiming to have imported goods from India.
DRI interrogated more than one and half a dozen officials of nine banks in this case.
The findings, however, suggest there is no institutional involvement and only staff of some of the banks indulged in the racket for personal gains.
A source at DRI said banks officials have been found to have assisted the traders to withdraw IRs 1.23 billion (Rs 1.98 billion) against 2,341 fake customs declaration forms. “Such cases took place when the Nepali market was witnessing shortage of IC. Huge volume of IC was withdrawn either for black marketeering in IC or assisting Indian traders who were attempting to take incentives from the Indian government showing fake exports to Nepal,” the source told Republica on Tuesday.
According to sources, release of IC from NIC Bank, Everest Bank and SBI Bank is almost established to have been done in collusion with officials concerned of those banks. “However, the investigation to fix involvement of staff of other banks is yet to complete,” the source further added.
Eight firms managed to withdraw IC from three branches of NIC Bank in Bhaktapur and Pepsicola in Kathmandu, and Birgunj. Similarly, two branches of Everest Bank at Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) and Birgunj city and two branches of SBI Bank, one at Rampur in Parsa district and another in Birgunj city, were also found to be involved in the misappropriation racket.
Birgunj city-based branches of Siddhartha Bank, Laxmi Bank, Citizen Bank, Nepal Investment Bank, Nepal Bangladesh Bank and semi state-owned Nepal Bank Limited were also under investigation. Total 19 officials including branch manager of all nine banks were questioned during the investigation.
“Even per demand draft commission charged by these banks is far lower than the prevalent rates so as to lure more customers. We are now sure that bank staff were involved in the IC misappropriation racket,” the source added.
Officials assigned by Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) to investigate the case have also found the banks failed to properly follow the NRB guidelines while releasing the IC.
Similarly, out of the five customs clearing agents who were mentioned by traders in their documents, only two were found to be genuine names. “Today, we have completed interrogation of the two agents whose names were matched with customs records,” said the source.
DRI is preparing to interrogate the five traders who have been detained for their alleged involvement in the case, before filing the cases at the court against them.
However, investigating officers who have already matched more names of officials of both Krishna Nagar and Birgunj customs during the investigation said they are still to reach a conclusion on the involvement of these officials.
“No name of customs officials was matched with the name mentioned in the documents submitted by traders in the banks. So, customs officials´ invovlement in the racket has not been proved,” said the source.
The firms under DRI investigation are Birgunj-based Laxmi Traders, Rehan Traders, Maha Laxmi Enterprises, Shyam Galla Store, GS Traders, Maxwell Computers, Digital World and Jay Mata Di International.