Real estate mafia behind Karuvannur Cooperative Bank fraud
Thrissur: After serving the nation for years in the Indian Army K.C. Sudhakaran (65) of Koramveettil house at Mapranam in Thrissur had arrived back Kerala in the year 2000 and joined the police academy. For ten years, he had continued in the police academy. Hoping a peaceful life with his wife and only son, he decided to retire from the service. His hard-earned money was deposited in Karuvannoor Cooperative Bank.
Later, he was diagnosed with discitis and doctors prescribed an emergency surgery. Arranging money for the surgery was a herculean task and all their eyes were on the bank deposit. Unfortunately, they couldn’t withdraw money as they were told that the bank is in a crisis.
“Finally, with borrowed money, I underwent surgery on July 13, 2021. Now we don’t know how to clear debt as we need a good amount for medicines and other expenses,” said Sudhakaran.
This is not an isolated incident as there are many like Sudhakaran, who were cheated by the officials of Karuvannur Cooperative Bank. Mathrubhumi.com on its investigation found that Sree Narayana Ezhava Yuvajana Samajam has also lost money through this massive scam. The Secretary of the samajam, Chenthiparambil Surendran, said that the Rs 7,14,576 deposited in the bank was missing when approached the bank to renew it.
“Duplicate letter pad and seal of the samajam were found to be used for withdrawing the money. Without the knowledge of administrative panel this wouldn’t have taken place. A case has been filed at Irinjalakkuda Police Station and hope we will get justice.” said Surendran.
He also alleged that a common man cannot raise voice against the administrative members of the bank as they are highly influential and dangerous.
“The board members of the bank are local CPM leaders and one cannot go against them. Without their knowledge and consent, a massive heist like this would not have taken place,” added Surendran.
Taking loans by pledging properties without land owners’ knowledge, exaggerating land values for huge loans, granting loans for non-existed account holders were the kind of frauds took place in the bank.
According to a report, a scam worth Rs 300 cr has taken place at this bank over a five-year period. As per cooperative sector rules, only 70 percent of the total investment can be issued as bank loans. Violating all such rules, the bank issued loans worth Rs 437.71 cr in 2018-19 when the total investment was just Rs 401.78 cr.
A former employee of the bank, named Suresh, was sacked and threatened for disclosing the details of the fraud. He says a real-estate mafia works associated with the bank and it has great influence in the administrative panel. The mafia used all the stolen money for various real estate transactions and also invested in businesses with a plan to repay it gradually without affecting banking operations.
However, the Covid-19 crisis and the resulted real-estate depression have turned their expectations upside down. They couldn’t manage the cash flow and in the meantime, many account holders have requested withdrawal of money sensing risk. This led to the collapse of the bank.
“The administrative members are aware of the massive fraud and they all should be brought before the law. They helped the real estate mafia waywardly eyeing kick-backs,” added Suresh.
Many cooperative banks and societies in Kerala closed down due to frauds like these in the past. “A malpractice would not take place in a cooperative bank without collective effort as administrative members, staff, secretary and other officials from the department cannot work in isolation. After all, the yearly audit will bring such misconducts to day light. It is not easy for a crime to take place by overcoming all these,” said Sachithanandan G, retired manager of Farmers Service Cooperative Society, Kollam.
Initially, Irinjalakuda circle inspector Jijo M J investigated the case. By taking into account the vastness of the crime, it was decided to hand over the case to the crime branch. When contacted the police official ruled out political involvement in the crime. The crime branch is yet to begin the investigation. Only a tip of an iceberg has come out so far; more details of the crime can be unearthed if a transparent probe is conducted.