Shivraj Puri — the main accused in the multi-crore scam — has admitted to have conducted R800 crore worth of transactions through what he termed as ‘legitimate accounts’, in the last one year. And all this in the knowledge of bank authorities.
He claimed that Citibank was trying to save the interests of big-time investors as well as its own by making him a scapegoat in the entire sequence after the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) pulled it up on the issue.
Speaking to Hindustan Times before his arrest by the Gurgaon police on Thursday, Puri said over R200 crore was still lying in the accounts of the two brokerage firms — Bonanza Portfolio and Religare Securities — which had been frozen some time ago.
He said that the amount could be returned to the investors. He also admitted that brokerage firm Normans Martin Brokers Private Limited was run by his father but claimed that he had not conducted any transactions through this firm.
Puri, a commerce graduate, claimed that all inward payments in the related accounts at Citibank were being made through the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system in full knowledge of bank authorities.
“I conducted ‘business’ to the tune of R800 crore and returned the dues of clients when these got matured. I was to return the money to clients by December 31,” he said.
“However, Citibank raised the issue and the accounts of Bonanza Portfolio and Religare Securities were frozen, leaving investors in the lurch. More than R200 crore is still lying with these firms and can be returned to investors,” Puri added.
However, a written statement by Religare Securities Limited (RSL) said, “RSL only acted as a stockbroker for transactions carried out by aforesaid Shivraj. In the course of the transactions with Religare, which were only in derivatives, the settlement of his accounts was also being done in the normal course. As on October 15, 2010, there is a balance of R0.30 in his account. There has been no trading transaction in his account since October 01 2010.”
A statement from Bonanza Portfolio said, “A certain Shivraj Puri, whose name appears in press reports as an accused,
has a personal broking account with one of our branches. In the light of the recent developments, we have frozen the related accounts and suspended all transactions.”
On the other hand, Citibank officials said that the bulk of the transactions took place in the past two months and this is what made them initiate an enquiry into the matter. Officials also refuted the allegations levelled against it by Puri, saying that it was Citibank that had zeroed in on the suspected transactions in the accounts opened by him and reported the matter to SEBI, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the police.
Bank officials said that Puri used a forged Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) letter to invite investments and entered into illegal transactions with the Citibank customers.
Meanwhile, speaking about the accounts opened by him in Citibank in the names of his maternal grandparents Premnath, 92 and Sheila Premnath, 87, Puri claimed that they were innocent.