HC denies anticipatory bail to former ICICI Bank staffer
The Bombay high court recently rejected the anticipatory bail application of a former branch manager of ICICI Bank who was booked in 2020 for siphoning off ₹18
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court recently rejected the anticipatory bail application of a former branch manager of ICICI Bank who was booked in 2020 for siphoning off ₹18.94 crore deposited by customers by using fake fixed deposit receipts and TDS certificates. The manager diverted the money to her own account and those of her relatives and went on to purchase a Mercedes Benz worth ₹65 lakh before the purported fraud was unearthed.
Though the accused informed Justice Anuja Prabhudessai that she had returned around ₹11.86 crore and was willing to pay back the balance amount by selling her immovable properties, the court held that as long as the amount was not recovered, custodial interrogation was necessary and hence refused to extend the interim protection granted to her since December 2020. The former manager’s advocates, R B Mokashi and Raj Raut, told the court that the protection had been granted, as she had promised to return the amount.
Additional public prosecutor S V Gavand opposed the plea and submitted that the woman had misused her position as bank manager. He submitted that as the entire amount was yet to be recovered, granting her pre-arrest bail or interim protection would prejudice the investigation. The bank, represented by advocate Zakir Hussain, also opposed the application.
The court while rejecting the application noted, “The Applicant cannot seek pre-arrest bail on merits solely on the ground that she has been enjoying interim protection since long, particularly when the allegations against the Applicant are serious, and the money trail is yet to be verified and the siphoned-off money is yet to be recovered. In cases of such nature, interrogation with protective order will only be a ritualistic formality. In the facts and circumstances of the case, custodial interrogation is eminently necessary.”
Anshul Nishit, regional head of the bank, lodged the complaint after two investors, who had invested ₹3.06 crore, approached the bank, claiming that the money they had invested was not reflected in their accounts. To corroborate their claim, the duo produced a certificate issued by the branch manager. However, on verification, the document was proved to be forged. On conducting an inquiry, the bank learned that the branch manager had been diverting the funds into her own account or those of her relatives. Nishit then lodged a complaint with the MHB police on October 26, 2020.
The modus operandi:
Using her position, the branch manager used to encourage bank customers to invest their funds in fixed deposits. Once an amount was deposited, she would divert the funds to her account. She did the same with loans against deposit of 1,211 grams of gold and TDS certificates. When the customers sought to withdraw the fixed deposit amounts, she used to persuade them to renew the same, but paid those who did not wish to do so by diverting funds from the accounts of other customers. When customers sought to lodge complaints, she would give them the number of “a senior”, answer the calls herself, and assure the complainant that action would be taken against the errant official.
How the racket got busted:
When two customers approached the bank with fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) worth ₹65 lakh to be encashed, it was noticed that the FDRs were fabricated. Further inquiry revealed that an amount of ₹3.6 crore had been misappropriated from the account of one of the customers. It was also revealed that the branch manager had purchased a Mercedes Benz worth ₹65 lakh by diverting the money from the customer account. The inquiry concluded that the branch manager had siphoned a total of ₹18.94 crore.
- Icici Bank