How banker tapped into investors greed

Times of India, Chennai

30/12/10

Gurgaon: Shiv Raj Puri, 32, the man who cleaned out nearly Rs 250 crore from the Gurgaon branch of Citibank, is not someone you’d associate with fraud or greed. He was soft spoken and the car he drove belonged to his father, Raghu Raj Puri.

According to his neighbours at the upscale Hamilton Court, Puri was a modest man, who pretty much kept to himself. Though Puri was married, he often stayed with his parents. Says M M Bhalla, former president of Hamilton Court Residents Welfare Association, “Shiv Raj’s parents have been staying here for the past several years. We know them as friendly residents. I’ve met Shiv Raj only once. He was modest and came across as a god-fearing guy.”

God-fearing perhaps, but not quite law abiding. And smart. Says an investor, who was charmed out of his pocket to the tune of Rs 20 crore, “This tall, suave banker met me several times, and I was impressed by his soft talk.”

What Puri was talking about was miracles, the essence of which was greed. Puri said he would give 18% return on the money he received. To support his promises, he flashed a forged document, purportedly by Sebi, that empowered the DLF-II branch where he worked to float special schemes. His wealthy clients saw in Puri a short cut to even more riches. According to the police, over 20 high net worth investors allowed themselves to be lured into his trap.

A major problem with greed is that it prevents people from using their intelligence fully. And Puri soft-talked and hard-tapped his way into that vice with a vengeance. In the last few years, Puri opened 78 accounts in his name and in the names of his grand parents, Premnath Puri and Sheela Premnath Puri, and in the name of his mother, Deeksha Puri. All the three are coaccused along with Puri.

The accounts are with different financial institutions, including banks and brokerage houses spread across Gurgaon, Delhi and Kolkata. Religare, Bonanza and India Infoline figure in the list. The banks include SBI, HDFC, Standard Chartered, PNB, Axis and ABN-Amro.

According to police commissioner S S Deswal, notices have been issued to the banks to seize all the accounts. “We have formed five special teams to investigate the case,” Deswal said.

Hero Group staff among clients?    
Corporate which have invested in Citibank’s Gurgaon branch through manager Shiv Raj Puri include the Hero Group, sources said. A police officer supervising the multi-crore rupee fraud said most of the corporates which invested the amount with Puri belonged to the Hero Group. Naveen Munjal of Hero Exports alone had given around 50 crore to Puri for further investment, the officer said. Neither Munjal nor the group spokesperson could be contacted. AGENCIES

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