This happened shortly after I had taken charge of one of the Branches of my Bank at Jamshedpur.
At that time, most Bank Branches had not been computerized and everything was done manually. In the preceding years, additional staff had not been provided to the Branch to handle the growth in business. So the Staff Members had adopted what can be called a ‘restrictive trade practice’. New Savings Bank Accounts were agreed to be opened only when the prospective customer made a Term Deposit of not less than Rs. 5000. (Later, with a lot of difficulty, I could persuade the employees to abandon this practice but it took some time.)
One day, a young man in his twenties came to me. He said that he wanted to open an S B Account and was ready to make a Fixed Deposit of Rs. 5000. As per rules, a prospective customer has to, among other things, get himself introduced by an existing customer of the Bank. He said that he did not know any of our customers and requested me to introduce him. Knowing that an Account could be used for committing frauds, I declined as I did not know him. He left but came back a little later. He said that he was from a nearby village and that he did not think it to safe to take back the money and keep it in his house. I thought over the matter. Savings Bank Accounts could be used to commit frauds but such risk was almost nonexistent in case of a Fixed Deposit. Moreover, there was the scope of increasing the Deposits of the Branch, although by a small amount. So I told him that I would introduce the Fixed Deposit Account but he would have to bring in an existing customer for opening the S B Account. I reasoned to myself that once he brought an old customer to open the S B Account, the F D Account would get ipso facto introduction. He agreed and the F D was made.
Then he played! He went to another staff member, told her that I had introduced the F D and requested her to introduce the S B Account. Without asking him whether I had not agreed to introduce the S B Account and if so why, she introduced the S B Account. The Account was opened. Even afterwards, she did not find it necessary to tell me about it.
The real act came to the light a little later. After making a couple of nominal transactions in the S B Account, he defrauded the Bank of Rs 70,000.00 by using that Account. This came to light when balancing of the Accounts was taken at the end of the month.
The Officer looking after S B Department brought this to my notice. We had a brief discussion on the matter and decided to go to that person's village. The Officer drove the bike and I sat on the pillion. Luckily for us, we found that the man was not smart enough. The name was fictitious but the address was correct. (At that time, submission of address-proof for opening of Bank Accounts was not required.) With the help of the photo submitted by him, we made local enquiries and located his house. His family-members told us that he had gone to meet a Share Broker in the city (the place of our Branch). We were doubly lucky; the share broker was the owner of our Branch Premises! :)))))) We were lucky for the third time. When we went to the Share Broker, the man was there and was selling some Shares. Seeing us, he fled hurriedly, dropping the Share Certificates. Quickly, we explained the matter to the Broker (our landlord), took possession of the Share Certificates and chased the man!!!
It was a cat-and-mouse game. He was running fast ahead of us. We raised an alarm shouting, “chor, chor”. A couple of persons tried to catch him but he escaped and went out of sight. In desperation, we slowed down, discussing where he would have gone. And then we saw him (!!! :)))) ) coming out of a thick bush where he had hidden. Seeing us he started running again. We again shouted “chor, chor". This time he was not lucky. A few people overpowered him. We went to our Branch taking the man with us.
When we were talking to the miscreant at the Branch, our landlord came. The man was a regular customer of our landlord. Since our ultimate aim was to recover the Bank’s money, together we thrashed out a plan of action. The land lord agreed to buy the Shares and pay the money to us. We got the young man’s signature on the Share Certificates required for sale. I kept the Share Certificates safe. The man was about to leave when a policeman came. The police station was not very far from the spot where we were chasing him. Some people there would have informed the police. After inflicting on him a few hard slaps, when the policeman was talking to the man, the landlord and I, by exchange of glances, came to an understanding that we would not inform the police about the Share Certificates; otherwise they would seize them and the matter would become complicated.
The policeman took away the miscreant. Our landlord and I along with a few of my colleagues followed them to the Police Station. The man was beaten black and blue and was then thrown into the lock up. Then our landlord and the Officer-in-Charge of the Police Station went into a huddle in another room and had some discussion. When they came back, the landlord took me aside and told me that the matter could be closed and we need not proceed further. Since he had helped us in recovering the money, I nodded silently. He telephoned to his son who came with the cheque for the value of the Share Certificates. I collected it and all of us left. It was understood that the miscreant would be let off after we left the Police Station
Then I returned home to a worried family. By then, it was 11 P.M.
Next morning a Press Reporter met me and asked me about the incident. Like a seasoned politician, I declined to say anything on the matter. Then I reported the matter to the Controlling Office of our Bank. Separately, I told them over phone the whole thing, including the part which I had not reported in writing. The newspaper whose reporter had met me, carried the news on the next day, adding that I had neither confirmed nor denied the happening. Within a couple of days, an internal investigation into the matter was conducted by the Bank and I was instructed to file an FIR. I was advised that even though the Bank’s money had been recovered, the laid down procedure had to be followed as a preventive measure and as a deterrent against such incidents in future.
I filed an FIR in the Police Station. Later, I was told by them that by the time they went to the village, the miscreant had absconded! This news appeared in most of the local newspapers. However,the real inside story was known only to a small inner circle.
I became a hero to my children but the Lady of the House was not impressed:((((( She cautioned me against such bravado in future! What if the man was carrying a dagger or a pistol!!! :))))))))))))
Had I done the right thing? Was what I did wrong?
How the person had committed the fraud is another story.