50 banks under ED scanner to detect money laundering, hawala deals

People line up outside an ATM
Stepping up action to check financial crimes post demonetisation, the ED today launched an 'enquiry of records' operation at over 50 bank branches across the country to detect money laundering and hawala dealing instances through these channels.

Officials said multiple teams of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) swooped early morning at over 50 branches of at least ten banks, both in the private and public sector, along with banking auditors to "scrutinise" transaction records and account statements, armed with vital inputs gathered from financial snoop agencies.

They said ED teams have launched the operations at branches located in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and others based on records of transaction of these branches where the maximum amount of old notes have been deposited or huge cash has been deposited in bank accounts in one go or in a staggered fashion giving rise to suspicion of suspect deposits.

Officials said the sleuths and auditors are "looking at the banking transaction records post November 8" and instructions have been issued to these teams to ensure that regular operations and customer dealings are not affected due to this.

The ED, tasked with enforcing two important laws to check financial crimes--Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA)--has sourced Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Cash Transaction Reports (CTRs) of the banks under scanner from various financial intelligence agencies and has launched the operation to check possible financial irregularities, instances of money laundering and hawala dealings.

The agency had recently arrested two Axis Bank employees working at a branch in Delhi while probing a similar instance under PMLA.

ED, last week, had also conducted searches at 40 locations across the country in order to check black money held with currency exchanges, hawala dealers and others.

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