I Need Protection and Your Urgent Action on the ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ Benami (Fake) Bank Accounts: My Letter To @RBI @RBIGov @dir_ed and @Kolkata_Police

On 16 Nov, 2015, I Had Sent the Following Letter to The Offices Addressed Below, Requesting Protection and Urgent Action on  Benami (Fake) Bank Accounts under the Name “Palm Place Syndicate,” And on the Criminal Nexus Involved, Who Are a Serious Threat to Me and My Mother’s Safety

TO: Mr. Gaurav Sharma, DC of Police, SE Division, Kolkata
TO: Mr. Raghuram Rajan, Governor, Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai
TO: Mr. Karnal Singh, Director, Enforcement Directorate, New Delhi

1. I have enclosed in the letter for Mr. Gaurav Sharma, DC Police, SE, Kolkata, a cheque (no.689087 of SBI) from my mother, Indira Banerji of the amount Rs.6000/- made out A/C Payee to “Palm Place Syndicate.” This is the benami (fake) bank account (S/B 04770100017689 in Indian Overseas Bank, Ballygunge Park Rd., Kolkata), I have already complained about to all your offices. We’ve been forced to put Rs.1,04,000/- into this account since June 2015, due to harassment, threats, assault and destruction of our property. I am writing, because we cannot take this anymore and we urgently need the police, RBI and ED to take action on these accounts and on the individuals involved in this extortion nexus to ensure our safety. The banks have refused to act as it involves internal corruption. Karaya police station has not acted despite our FIRs on extortion, assault, and property damage (FIR 217, FIR 292, FIR 539). [See Appendix 21]

2. At the back of the check my mother has written this note to explain why she is sending it:
“I, Indira Banerji, do not want to put this money in the account S/B 04770100017689 which is under the name ‘Palm Place Syndicate.’ But I have been forced under threat, violence and other pressure to deposit this and other cheques by the following:
1) Biman Dhar (Address, Phone)
2) Prem Prakash Sahoo (Address, Phone)
3) Somnath Bhattacharyya (HR, Premiere World Tech Ltd., Address, Phone)
4) Michael J. Pook (Employee of Premier World Tech, Occupant of Indira Banerji’s flat no.7 for 28 years, Phone)
5) A.K. Ghosh (Victor Moses Co., Address; phone)
I am asking Mr. Gaurav Sharma (D.C. Police, SE) to give the check to one of the five above , if he thinks this is right.”

3. In October 2014, I discovered the ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ account in the Standard Chartered Bank (a/c 33610022158) into which these men had been making my mother put money for “maintenance” of her ownership flats for many years, is a benami (fake) account. The account has no registration, PAN, identity proof, or address proof, and had been in the bank’s legal cell since 2010. We found this out when Mr. Biman Dhar, Mr. Nikhilesh Chandra Roy [phone], Mr. Prem Prakash Sahoo and Mr. Pinakpani Chakravarti [phone], conspired to make my mother, Indira Banerji a signatory to that account in Sept 2014, by saying they now wanted a “lady” to take care of the “building society account.” I discovered that the account had already been served the final legal closure notice two months prior to that. Prior to this, they had blocked my mother from any access to this bank account even though with two flats she is a majority flat owner in the building. [See Appendix 1, 3, 7, 8]

4. They also pulled out all the money in the account through K.R. Sriram, the auditor who (I then realized) had been making fake audit reports on Palm Place Syndicate’s benami bank account till 2013. Mr. Sriram has refused to communicate with us. [See Appendix 4, 10, 11, 12]

5. Mr. Biman Dhar and the other flat owners have refused to give us any proof of registration and byelaws for ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ as a registered building society. They make random demands for large sums of money and make us deposit the money directly in the account without giving any receipt. They make random cash withdrawals, write checks to ‘self’, give fake name of companies for repair and paints, and refuse to provide any bills, accounts or receipts for money taken or used. Their demands keep escalating and now they want in lakhs. They have conspired to harass us by sabotaging our drinking water, destroying our property, and physical violence. They are doing this because there are no official documents, and they are using the benami accounts to extort money but likely also for other illegal activities. We don’t know how many benami accounts in how many banks they have under this name of ‘Palm Place Syndicate,’ or what activities they are used for. One owner, Mrs. Ruchi Jain [phone] told us she had also opened an account with Mr. Dhar in (more…)

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As a feminist activist in India here’s what I went through to file an FIR with the police!

An FIR (First information report) has to be filed with the police to initiate investigation of any crime in India.  The police often refuse to file an FIR.  And even though as a feminist activist I’m aware of the law and my rights it took me more than 2 weeks to file an FIR case with my local police station for my mother in a case involving threats, extortion and cheating.  Not only that, the FIR report in the police register is not the complaint we submitted.  But we were told either had to accept it as it is, or we don’t any FIR report.

A man in our building, Mr.D, who calls himself the ‘President’ of a flat owners association, that does not not exist on paper, or have any legal or written documents, has been trying to force my mother to put the building maintenance money for her flat into a bank account.  For many years she had been putting money into an account under the name “Palm Place Syndicate”, assuming that even if Mr. D. does not show us any registration or bye-laws, or anything in writing/print showing such an association actually exists, it must exist.  There must be documents, otherwise how can the bank allow for an account to exist under the name “Palm Place Syndicate.”  And then in October 2014, we discovered that account was in the banks own legal department because it had no documents! No registration, bye-laws, identity — nothing!  And the way we found out was that Mr. D. invited my mother to be a signatory to the account without telling her that the account was in legal trouble and faced RBI closure.  We then also found out  the account was not even set up as a building society account, but Mr.D’s business partnership account. One of his business partners was a man who had sold his flat and didn’t even live in our building. The third business “partner” was a man who had been dead for 10 years!

Why should we be putting money into someone’s business partnership account? So we stopped putting money into that account. In the meantime, in November 2014, Mr. D. pulled out 90% of the funds in the account and then for the next 4 months went all quiet.  We heard he was trying to open a similar business partnership account in other banks.  I imagine without documents it would be hard.  But not impossible. For by end of March 2015, he managed to open a new account — another business partnership account, with undisclosed “business partners.”  Then he demanded we put our maintenance money in there directly with a penalty for late payment based on a building bye-law which does not exist on paper, and he refuses to provide us a copy.  When we refused to put money into this account (we’d been voluntarily doing so in the last one unaware of his set-up!) Mr.D started threatening us.  He said he’d turn off our water, electricity and put more penalty on us.  Interestingly, we had managed to get printout of the last bank account, and we don’t see very many monthly maintenance payments by Mr. D. himself! But he thinks he’s not required to provide audits and accounts either!

When we went to the police to file an FIR for fraud, criminal intimidation and extortion against Mr.D, they refused to register the complaint and wrote a general police diary. They also refused to give us the carbon copy of the report we filed. Then we went to the next higher up, the DC – deputy commissioner of police who ordered an FIR.  However, again, the sub-inspector, (the same one who did the General Police Diary the last time) they took our carbon copy to stamp but refused to stamp and give it back. He gave a little slip saying – come and get the FIR report tomorrow. Next day he wasn’t there and they couldn’t find it. We kicked up a fuss and finally I saw the FIR report in the police register. The sub inspector who wrote it had filed a wrong story, saying there was attempt to extort money through threats of grievous injury.  Mr.D had 4 years ago attempted to physically push my mother over another matter, and the police had refuse to file an assault FIR then too.  However in the current case we cannot yet complain of or prove physical threats.

So we objected but the police refused to change the FIR report. Then they said that we don’t get a copy of the FIR report because it’s an internal thing.  They tried to tell us it does not matter, judge will only see your written complaint! Again we had to go back to the Deputy commissioner of Police.  It still wasn’t easy.  They tried to give us a copy of our written formal complaint with the police stamp, signature and penal code it was submitted under, blanked out.  It looked like it had been covered with a blank paper on the margin and photocopied.  We did get — but after another bout of fighting. We refused to sign the FIR report with the wrong story.  They said, this is the only one you get. Like it or leave it!  We finally decided to sign at the back — stating simply received a copy of the FIR without signing the bottom of the form accepting the report as true.

We’ve been told this happens! And that it’s OK. The police file different stories from the one’s the complainants file! And that eventually the court will look at what you’ve written.  Will it? I don’t know. And why should there be a wrong story officially filed in the police register?

So I ask other Indian women activists, lawyers, and anyone else reading this – please advise me on what to do. It’s been 6 months of hell and I’ve knocked on dozens of doors – lawyers, NGOs, government offices, consumer affairs, RBI.

Also I’d appreciate any advice on what can I do about Mr.D?

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