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News updated at 3:06 PM IST

RBI starts scrutiny of three banks

New Delhi, Mar 18, 2013, PTI: 1:55 IST

The Reserve Bank on Monday said it has started a comprehensive scrutiny of head offices and branches of ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank, which are accused of money laundering and violating regulations like FEMA and KYC.

The scrutiny will be completed by March 31.

“The RBI has initiated the process of carrying out comprehensive scrutinies covering both, Head Office and branches of three private sector banks, namely, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank,” the central bank said in a statement.

“The final reports on all the three banks will be completed by March 31, 2013 and thereafter further course of action as necessary will be initiated,” it added.

The three private sector banks were accused of money laundering in a sting operation by online portal, Cobrapost.

“The scrutinies have been initiated after an online media firm on the basis of its sting operations across some branches of these banks alleged money laundering and violation of several provisions of the RBI Regulations,” RBI said.

It further said the allegations also pertain to violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act guidelines, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), among others.

The media firm had uploaded some videos on the internet relating to these banks as well as ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and HDFC Life Insurance, RBI added.

Apart from this, the RBI has also undertaken a thematic study in respect of banks that are active in selling gold coins/wealth management products to examine whether there are systemic issues and to plug deficiencies and legal loop-holes, if any, the statement added.

Meanwhile, the three private sector banks, named in the sting operation, have started their own internal investigation. They have also suspended staff concerned pending probe.

Last week, Cobrapost had played the contents of a purported video recording of officials of
the private banks allegedly agreeing to receive unverified sums of cash and put them in their investment schemes.

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