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13 Feb 2017

'Mercy cry' tape on switch - Family of accused cites video in cash-swap case

Rajat Chowdhury
Pronab Mondal , TT, Calcutta, Feb. 12: The son of a Howrah businessman has cited CCTV footage to insist that a banking correspondent who has been found dead had sought the forgiveness of his father for allegedly switching legal notes with the demonetised ones while depositing lakhs of rupees.
If the authenticity of the footage is established and police investigations corroborate the business family's version, another question crops up: from where did the banking correspondent get the old notes - the estimates vary between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 35 lakh - that were deposited? He used to earn around Rs 8,000 a month and his two savings bank accounts have a balance of no more than Rs 6,000, his family said.
"We have footage of CCTVs installed at our house where Rajat Chowdhury was seen visiting my father on the morning of February 7 and admitting his guilt with folded hands. In the footage, Chowdhury is also seen holding my father's feet praying for mercy," Sayantan Ghosh told The Telegraph today.
In a Facebook post hours before his body was found on railway tracks, Rajat had held Somnath Ghosh, Sayantan's father, and his manager Amit Nayek responsible for his death.
Sayantan showed the purported footage to this reporter. A man resembling Rajat is seen holding Somnath's feet in the footage, the authenticity of which can be established only by police. The footage had no audio feed, which means it is not clear what Rajat was saying to Somnath.
Sayantan said Rajat was called to the cabin of the Union Bank of India Uluberia branch manager on the same day and in front of everyone, he had given a written confession of replacing around Rs 25 lakh deposited by Ghosh between November 9 and December 30 with old 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes. Later, he had confessed verbally to having switched a total amount of Rs 35 lakh, Sayantan said.
"When the manager asked him to tell the truth, Rajat broke down and confessed. The manager asked him to give a written declaration for producing it before vigilance officers."
The Ghosh family informed the vigilance wing of the nationalised bank, Sayantan added. This newspaper could not contact the bank manager.
Rajat's nephew Sumanta said: "Before joining the bank, my uncle used to work for a car showroom and Ghosh purchased two cars through him. We suspect my uncle was threatened or forced to admit a crime. We want the truth to come out."
Rajat's wife has lodged a complaint with Uluberia police station against Somnath, Nayek, the bank manager and the cashier, accusing them of forcing her husband to commit suicide.
The police said the probe was continuing. "We will also probe whether Rajat fell into a trap," said an officer.
Sayantan's family runs an LPG distributorship and handles the distribution of three cellphone service providers in Uluberia and its adjoining areas. The deposits were made into the current account linked to the mobile phone business, said Sayantan, who is in his mid-30s.
Explaining the source of the deposited amount, Sayantan said the average monthly income from the mobile service provider distributorship was Rs 1.8 crore. The family supplies 450 retailers with SIM cards, recharge vouchers, mobile wallets and data cards.
Banking correspondents are not direct employees of banks but are authorised to collect deposits from customers. Between November 8 and December 30, a form had to be filled in by account holders specifying the number of old notes and the amount. The correspondents were also expected to do so when they filled in forms on behalf of customers.
Sayantan said Nayek, the manager, used to be sent to the bank with daily collections and deposit vouchers, filled by either his father or himself and sometimes by the manager also. "The money used to be deposited in the cash counters. But because of the long queues after the demonetisation, we requested the bank manager to assign someone to deal only with current account holders. Since there was heavy pressure, the manager authorised Rajat to collect our deposits," Sayantan said.
Additional Reporting by Abhranila Das


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