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The Citibank Fraud: As The Mystery Unfolds

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By Shivani Singh:

December 29th 2010– another scam unravels itself to paint the face of India with corruption. The Citibank scam which is slowly taking the shape of a huge national economic disaster of over 88 million dollars. This incident came to light when one of the Citibank’s HNI customers lodged a complaint in the DLF-II police station. Shiv Raj Puri was arrested for being the mastermind of this scam — a citibank employee. Though Sanjeev Aggarwal (MD-Helion ventures) had named top 11 Citibank officials including — Vikram Pandit-CEO, Chairman William R Rhodes, Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach and Chief operating officer Douglas Peterson only Shiv Puri has been arrested. The police pointed out that since we are only at the stage of registering an FIR so Global CEO cannot be questioned. Their active knowledge has to be proven before they are held whether direct involvement or criminal  negligence. The key charges leveled against them are falsification of accounts , breach of trust and criminal negligence.

The exact modus operandi is yet to be investigated but the sequence of events which led to the scam are as follows :-

  1. All the HNI (High net-worth Individuals) customers which have wealth management accounts in the Citibank have relationship managers as a practice to maintain the connection between the bank and customer .
  2. Shiv Raj Puri was one such relationship manager of Sanjeev Aggarwal. As a custom, the manager gets documents signed from the customer which are blank and then they fill the details of the respective security depending on the instruments they want to buy and sell.
  1. Then instead of moving money into the customers account, using the documents the money was sent to Puri’s personal accounts for 1 year.
  2. Citibank kept sending bonafide email statements showing their money was intact.
  3. Citibank sold to them as income funds but instead of buying it in their names, the money was moved into Puri’s accounts in Religare and Bonaza.
  4. Then this money was moved into the stock exchange.

Now, since the scam is being investigated and each new day brings out new revelations, many doubts are being raised. Citibank says none of its top officials are involved and they themselves are investigating the case. But Sanjeev Aggarwal alleges that it is due to systemic failure — couldn’t have been done alone. Who is to blame? Can’t the bank know if one individual is a fraudster?

If Puri had been operating for close to a year and a half now, how come the bank got to detect it only this month? The system of the bank is not foolproof? The investors are also to blame — why did none of the HNI customers come forward and lodge a complaint with the police — Is there a hawala angle to it ?

Why were the investors so careless about their “life time savings” that they didn’t notice the discrepancies in the bank statements between the hard copy and the soft copy? America’s Bernie Madoff couldn’t have thrived without lack of caution in his victims. So, people should bank first on their own financial prudence.

The recent arrest of Sanjay Gupta- CFO of Hero company also raises questions like — is he one of the conspirators or is he the victim?

A money laundering angle is  also being probed into — the violation of the KYC norms (Know your Customer) implemented by the government of India, by many companies. Not registering “suspicious transactions above Rs. 10 Lakh” which should have been reported. There are many grounds on which these companies could file the Suspicious Transaction Report (STRs) but none did, so the money was easily diverted through many accounts — Puri’s wife, grandfather, grandmother. No one noticed?

The first thing that brokers would have known while opening Puri’s trading account was that he was a Citibank employee. If they know that, how did they allow him to open trading accounts and still let him trade as a portfolio manager? This is clear violation of the KYC norms.

Amidst these questions, the Gurgoan police is searching for an iPad that could provide critical evidence against Shivraj Puri. It is worth recalling Ravi Subramanian’s novel – If God was a Banker — in which he narrates an identical case involving a Relationship Manager of a foreign bank in India. She invested in mutual fund products without the customer’s mandate to earn hefty commissions. So now scams are being thought of from books, Indian police could use a little bit of help from that too then (Metaphorically speaking).

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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