Graft case filed against J&K Bank officials, businessman

Srinagar, Aug 16 (IANS) The Anti Corruption Bureau on Friday registered a case in a loan fraud of over Rs 350 crore involving J&K Bank officials in its Srinagar headquarters and Bengaluru branch for conniving with a businessman from the Karnataka state capital in approving loans against very low mortgage, which the businessman never paid up.

Searches were also conducted at the residential premises and office of Anish Mohd Rawther, promoter-director and managing director of S.A. Rawther Spices Private Limited, in Bengaluru, the ACB said on Friday.

During probe it came to light that the management at the J&K Bank corporate headquarters/Zonal Office Bengaluru and officers/officials of J&K Bank Branch, Infantry Road, Bengaluru had given the loan to Rawther's firm.

The firm was dealing in import and export of spices and coffee. In 2002 the firm approached J&K Bank's Infantry Road branch in Bengaluru for a loan. The bank initially sanctioned Rs 2 crore loan against collateral security of three properties valued at Rs 10 crore.

However, from 2012 onwards the bank enormously increased the limits of different types of loans, which rose to Rs 308.13 crore in 2015 - but the mortgage/security value against it was only Rs 147.43 crore.

Shamim Ahmed Haji of Sopore, Kashmir, who was then Branch Head of J&K BU, Infantry Road, Bengaluru processed the loan and facilitated its approval by the J&K Bank headquarters, despite the collateral property being highly disproportionate to the loan amount.

The company failed to repay the loan on regular intervals. When the firm's account was declared NPA in September 2017, an amount of Rs 285.81 crore was outstanding with the company. This was besides unapplied interest of Rs 66.91 crore against mortgaged collateral property valued at Rs 171 crore.

Rawther took two other banks for a ride. During the period his firm borrowed Rs 16.5 crore from HDFC Bank and Rs 25 crore from RBL Bank, and provided mortgage to these banks against the same property that was mortgaged to J&K Bank Ltd.

While he was posted as Branch Head, Shamim Ahmed Haji also processed a file for withdrawal of three prime properties -- a shopping complex at Yashwant Pora; an industrial property at Gorur and a four-acre land adjacent to Hindpur, and exchanged these properties with new properties such as land in village Sagu and abandoned coffee estate located at village Virajpet -- that had low market value.

The branch manager in connivance with Rawther managed to valuate these exchanged properties at a higher price and justified the release of the prime properties that were valued higher than the exchanged properties. Though the bank has taken action under SARFAESI (Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest) Act, and had tried to auction two properties, but it did not recover a single penny from these over-valued properties.

In this way, the officers and officials of J&K Bank in connivance with Rawther caused a loss to the state exchequer of Rs 352.72 crore.

Scrutiny of the bank records disclose commission of criminal misconduct by the bank management at the Corporate HQ in Srinagar/officers/officials then posted at the Zonal Office in Bengaluru/BU Infantry Road and by Mohd Anish Rawther and others, the ACB said.

The ACB filed an FIR against Shamim Ahmed Haji, officers/officials of J&K Bank posted at Srinagar and the Zonal Office Bengaluru, and Rawther.

During investigations, a team of ACB J&K obtained search warrants from the Anti-Corruption Court, Srinagar, which was endorsed by the courts concerned in North Benguluru and also conducted extensive searches at the residential premises and office of Rawther along with local police and magistrate.

During the searches various incriminating documents/ electronic evidences were recovered and seized by the team.

This is the third case registered by the ACB against the bank in the case in the past 10 days.

--IANS

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