Many years since the stock market scam, a fresh probe has been ordered into the management of the infamous Global Trust Bank. Why now, and who all are likely to come under the scanner?
After all these years, the government has ordered a probe into the alleged involvement of Global Trust Bank’s management in the stock market scam of 2001. It has tasked the Serious Frauds Investigations Office (SFIO), an arm of the corporate affairs ministry, to look into the charges of funds diversion and accounts manipulation by the bank, supposed to have been deeply involved in aiding Ketan Parekh’s financial racketeering.
But why has the corporate affairs ministry suddenly ordered a fresh probe into the matter? It has been almost nine years since the Ketan Parekh led stock bubble ended in an inevitable collapse that sank two banks—GTB and Madhavpura Mercantile Co-operative Bank.
With regard to investigations against GTB, after spending countless hours and tonnes of public money, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) report unceremoniously dumped all matters related to it. Its 14th Progress Report on the matter concluded (on June 2009), “Investigations in this case have been completed. In all, 6 SCNs (show cause notices) had been issued to M/s Global Trust Bank and others. On conclusion of adjudication proceedings, charges against M/s Global Trust Bank in all the 6 SCNs have been dropped and the case stands closed. Hence, action against this company may be treated as complete.”
A scrutiny of the capital market exposure of GTB conducted by the central bank, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) during March 2001 revealed that its exposure was quite high and even violated the ceilings set up by the bank’s board for such exposure. The bank had also misled the board while reporting its exposure to the capital market by reckoning non-funded exposures to enlarge the quantum of the bank’s advances and to give the impression that such exposure was within the board’s prescribed limit at 20% of total advances.
Now that the issue has been raked up again, will the outcome be any different? It is not known who all would be the subject of scrutiny by the SFIO as a part of the probe. The SFIO is not willing to divulge too much about the matter. An official from SFIO confirmed that the management of the Global Trust Bank would be central to the investigation, but refused to divulge more details. “This matter came to us only yesterday (Monday, 1st June). It is too early to say anything about the matter. We cannot discuss about the nature of the investigation while it is still underway,” the official remarked.
It is entirely possible that the erstwhile chairman and managing director of GTB, Ramesh Gelli, would come under the scanner of the SFIO. The probe is also likely to delve into the manipulation of the bank’s books and the possible involvement of the board of directors, auditors and other bank officers in the fraud.
The JPC, constituted to bring the accused to book has mostly turned out to be a toothless tiger. Several big names in the industry have gotten away free, with barely a scratch to show. The Zee Group was one such big entity that got away with a mere warning from the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s whole-time member, TC Nair, for its role in the Ketan Parekh scam, despite copious evidence of its extraordinary fund transfers through accounts in GTB. It is believed that the Zee Group was willing to cough up Rs5 crore under a consent agreement with SEBI, but was only too happy to get only a rap on its knuckles from SEBI.
The new probe is expected to take at least six months to be done with, according to the SFIO official. It will depend on whether the SFIO can get the right documents at its disposal and the right people to speak to.