In a brazen breach of guidelines set by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Assam Co-operative Apex Bank allegedly orchestrated transactions totaling Rs 20.3 crore between April 5 and June 20, funneling these funds to North East Plantation and Commercial Private Limited, a company under the ownership of Rajesh Bajaj, a news report stated.
Notably, Bajaj found himself under the CBI's scrutiny back in 2014, pertaining to the infamous Saradha chit fund scandal.
Remarkably, the financial saga unfolded as Bajaj's company received staggered payments: a hefty Rs 6 crore on April 5, a notable Rs 3 crore on April 18, a generous Rs 2 crore on April 28, a substantial Rs 4 crore on May 2, Rs 95 lakh on June 2, Rs 80 lakh on June 9, and a jaw-dropping Rs 3.55 crore on June 20. These transactions transpired under the shadowy umbrella of "Demand Bill Purchase," a method that RBI had explicitly prohibited through a circular issued on July 1, 2015.
The "Demand Bill Purchase" approach was designed to allow banks to come to the financial rescue of customers, purchasing their checks when urgency reared its head. The bank, guided by the customer's transaction history, would then release funds. This financial mechanism's relevance waned as net banking became omnipresent, allowing customers quick access to funds via the clearance of checks, irrespective of their geographical location.
As per Clause 5.5 of the 2015 "Master Circular" on customer service by the RBI, local banks were authorized to earn profits by acquiring checks, based on a customer's transaction history, only if the bank's check clearance processes had been halted for any reason. This rule particularly pertained to checks from governmental bodies and renowned corporations. However, it's crucial to note that no recent cases of check clearance process interruptions had been reported. Bajaj's company, intriguingly, received money against checks issued by other banks, not the Apex Bank. Instead of the usual check clearance, the Apex Bank astonishingly transferred funds directly to Bajaj's enterprise using the "demand bill purchase" technique.
Adding a layer of intrigue, Bajaj reportedly maintains close ties with the Apex Bank's chairman, Biswajit Phukan, who also happens to be a BJP MLA representing the Sarupathar constituency. Phukan's visits to Bajaj's office are apparent from their social media interactions. Nevertheless, the MLA vehemently denies having any undue connection with Bajaj, apart from the fact that the businessman hails from the constituency Phukan represents in the legislative assembly.
Notably, the report unveiled that the BJP leader acknowledged Bajaj's fraudulent behavior, involving the deposit of checks from different banks and subsequent withdrawal of funds without proper clearance. Branch manager Bikash Ranjan Das was implicated as a co-conspirator in this elaborate scheme and has since been suspended. Phukan emphasizes that strict retribution awaits those entangled in the web of this fraud.
While Bajaj openly admitted to receiving the money, he staunchly maintains that it was all part of a legitimate business deal, vehemently denying any wrongdoing in the process.