Rajnish Kumar Tiwari is a part-time electrician and Umadut Haldkar a small-time employee of a private clinic. Both are BPL (below the poverty line) card holders and struggle to make ends meet.
Yet, they are doing the rounds of the income tax department, trying to give an explanation for the crores of rupees they supposedly held in their bank accounts some years ago.
Tiwari’s three accounts with the Katni branch of Axis Bank had Rs 16.93 crores. Haldkar’s account with the same branch had Rs 2.26 crores.
Both men have no clue how the money came into their accounts between 2006 and 2009. They are equally clueless about who withdrew the staggering sums.
“I was poor and remain poor. I have no idea where the money came from and where it finally went,” says Tiwari.
Haldkar, whose monthly income rarely exceeds Rs 4,000, is also scratching his head in disbelief. Employed as a laboratory assistant at a private clinic, Haldkar says the money deposited in his account was beyond his wildest dreams.
Perplexed with the large sums, the income tax department served the two men with notices to explain the source of the money. Unable to furnish answers, the two dazed men lodged a complaint with the Katni police last month.
Situated some 350 kilometres from the state capital Bhopal, Katni – the second biggest town after Jabalpur in the Mahakoshal region – is now abuzz with the men’s surreal brush with wealth that they held, but never came to enjoy.
Police investigations reveal someone or some people opened three bank accounts in Tiwari’s name, identifying him to be the managing director of a company called SK Minerals, and then made a series of deposits totaling Rs 16.93 crores into the accounts.
Haldkar also had an account opened as the director of one Mahadeo Trading Company with unexplained deposits following shortly. The money was withdrawn through ATMs at Delhi and Haryana as mysteriously as they were deposited.
The bank’s manager RK Singh is refusing to divulge any further details. “We are cooperating with police in every possible manner,” he says.
According to Gaurav Tiwari, the Katni superintendent of police, the questionable money trail hints at the role of hawala operators parking black money in the accounts of unsuspecting people and then withdrawing it to make it white.
“We are probing this angle. We are also gathering details of bogus companies used in this mega fraud. Role of some bank insiders cannot be ruled out,” the SP added.
A similar case surfaced in May when an Uttar Pradesh farmer found out that he was a ‘director’ of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines and that his two bank accounts were being seized for recovering the crores of rupees industrialist Vijay Mallya owed creditors.
As police dig deeper, Tiwari and Haldkar are continuing to do the rounds of the income tax office, protesting their innocence. When the two occasionally meet, they try to figure out how many zeroes make up a crore.