Pranab Bhakta was stunned when he received a letter from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in September for a loan he never took.
When the 55-year-old man chased the Noida-based Noble Co-operative Bank, which had apparently sanctioned a Rs 30-lakh loan to him, what unfolded was a unique fraud in the real estate sector which is already under scrutiny for large scale scams.
But Bhakta is not alone. HT has found more than 30 other home buyers whose names have been used to take loans in the range of Rs 15-40 lakh from the same bank by the same builder for its controversy-ridden residential project Charms in Greater Noida.
A routine inspection on the loans had raised suspicion in the central bank.
All the promoters of the project — developed by Shiv Kala Builder — are in jail after an HT report in November 2013 exposed how flats were sold to multiple buyers with multiple finances from well-known banks.
But this is the first instance in which it has come to light that loans were extended to the developer in the name of buyers without their knowledge.
“In September 2015, I wrote back to RBI that I have bought a flat in Charms project and did avail a loan but from some other bank and I never visited Noble Co-operative Bank ever in my life,” Bhakta said.
In January 2016, the co-operative bank issued a “no-dues” certificate to him saying that the loan amount has been settled.
“This is to certify that a housing loan of Rs 30 lacs only sanctioned in favour of Pranav Bhakta in April 2010 vide loan account no HL-02 (sector 53 branch) has been fully repaid. There is nothing outstanding in the above loan account and the said loan account stands closed,” the certificate reads.
Nithesh Shetty, another buyer whose identity was used to take a loan, also received a similar clearance letter from the bank. So did 30 others, while none repaid, HT has learnt.
RBI officials refused to speak on the issue.
VK Sharma, the CEO of the bank, instead of replying to HT’s query, requested not to highlight the matter.
“We are anxious how the loan was first disbursed without our knowledge and then settled. Even our signatures are forged in the documents,” Nitesh added.
Experts pointed out that home loans are cheaper than normal business loans and co-operative banks are vulnerable to such frauds due to a low compliance mechanism.
Most cooperative banks don’t share their loan details with the Central Registry of Securitisation Asset Reconstruction and Security Interest of India (CERSAI), formed to minimise loan frauds for which it maintains and operates a registration system of loans on property.
“When any financing institution feeds the address of a property in the system and if there is already a loan on that property, the system throws an alert,” said AK Ralhan, former COO of CERSAI.
But out of 1600-odd urban cooperative banks, only 150 share their data on a regular basis with CERSAI.
“We have requested cooperative banks to become members of CERSAI but the response has remained very poor till now,” said Subhash Gupta, chief executive, National Federation of Urban Cooperative Banks.