Banking Fraud – Prevention and Control

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Banking Fraud is posing threat to Indian Economy. Its vibrant effect can be understood be the fact that in the year 2004 number of Cyber Crime were 347 in India which rose to 481 in 2005 showing an increase of 38.5% while I.P.C. category crime stood at 302 in 2005 including 186 cases of cyber fraud and 68 cases cyber forgery. Thus it becomes very important that occurrence of such frauds should be minimized. More upsetting is the fact that such frauds are entering in Banking Sector as well.

In the present day, Global Scenario Banking System has acquired new dimensions. Banking did spread in India. Today, the banking system has entered into competitive markets in areas covering resource mobilization, human resource development, customer services and credit management as well.

Indian’s banking system has several outstanding achievements to its credit, the most striking of which is its reach. In fact, Indian banks are now spread out into the remotest areas of our country. Indian banking, which was operating in a highly comfortable and protected environment till the beginning of 1990s, has been pushed into the choppy waters of intense competition.

A sound banking system should possess three basic characteristics to protect depositor’s interest and public faith. Theses are (i) a fraud free culture, (ii) a time tested Best Practice Code, and (iii) an in house immediate grievance remedial system. All these conditions are their missing or extremely weak in India. Section 5(b) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 defines banking… “Banking is the accepting for the purpose of lending or investment, deposits of money from the purpose of lending or investment, deposits of money from the public, repayable on demand or otherwise and withdraw able by cheque, draft, order or otherwise.” But if his money has fraudulently been drawn from the bank the latter is under strict obligation to pay the depositor. The bank therefore has to ensure at all times that the money of the depositors is not drawn fraudulently. Time has come when the security aspects of the banks have to be dealt with on priority basis.

The banking system in our country has been taking care of all segments of our socio-economic set up. The Article contains a discussion on the rise of banking frauds and various methods that can be used to avoid such frauds. A bank fraud is a deliberate act of omission or commission by any person carried out in the course of banking transactions or in the books of accounts, resulting in wrongful gain to any person for a temporary period or otherwise, with or without any monetary loss to the bank. The relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Contract Act, and Negotiable Instruments Act relating to banking frauds has been cited in the present Article.

EVOLUTION OF BANKING SYSTEM IN INDIA

Banking system occupies an important place in a nation’s economy. A banking institution is indispensable in a modern society. It plays a pivotal role in economic development of a country and forms the core of the money market in an advanced country.

Banking industry in India has traversed a long way to assume its present stature. It has undergone a major structural transformation after the nationalization of 14 major commercial banks in 1969 and 6 more on 15 April 1980. The Indian banking system is unique and perhaps has no parallels in the banking history of any country in the world.

RESERVE BANK OF INDIA-ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL OBJECTIVE

The Reserve Bank of India has an important role to play in the maintenance of the exchange value of the rupee in view of the close interdependence of international trade and national economic growth and well being. This aspect is of the wider responsibly of the central bank for the maintenance of economic and financial stability. For this the bank is entrusted with the custody and the management of country’s international reserves; it acts also as the agent of the government in respect of India’s membership of the international monetary fund. With economic development the bank also performs a variety of developmental and promotional functions which in the past were registered being outside the normal purview of central banking. It also acts an important regulator.

BANK FRAUDS: CONCEPT AND DIMENSIONS

Banks are the engines that drive the operations in the financial sector, which is vital for the economy. With the nationalization of banks in 1969, they also have emerged as engines for social change. After Independence, the banks have passed through three stages. They have moved from the character based lending to ideology based lending to today competitiveness based lending in the context of India’s economic liberalization policies and the process of linking with the global economy.

While the operations of the bank have become increasingly significant banking frauds in banks are also increasing and fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated and ingenious. In a bid to keep pace with the changing times, the banking sector has diversified it business manifold. And the old philosophy of class banking has been replaced by mass banking. The challenge in management of social responsibility with economic viability has increased.

DEFINITION OF FRAUD

Fraud is defined as “any behavior by which one person intends to gain a dishonest advantage over another”. In other words , fraud is an act or omission which is intended to cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to the other, either by way of concealment of facts or otherwise.

Fraud is defined u/s 421 of the Indian Penal Code and u/s 17 of the Indian Contract Act. Thus essential elements of frauds are:

1. There must be a representation and assertion;

2. It must relate to a fact;

3. It must be with the knowledge that it is false or without belief in its truth; and

4. It must induce another to act upon the assertion in question or to do or not to do certain act.

BANK FRAUDS

Losses sustained by banks as a result of frauds exceed the losses due to robbery, dacoity, burglary and theft-all put together. Unauthorized credit facilities are extended for illegal gratification such as case credit allowed against pledge of goods, hypothecation of goods against bills or against book debts. Common modus operandi are, pledging of spurious goods, inletting the value of goods, hypothecating goods to more than one bank, fraudulent removal of goods with the knowledge and connivance of in negligence of bank staff, pledging of goods belonging to a third party. Goods hypothecated to a bank are found to contain obsolete stocks packed in between goods stocks and case of shortage in weight is not uncommon.

An analysis made of cases brings out broadly the under mentioned four major elements responsible for the commission of frauds in banks.

1. Active involvement of the staff-both supervisor and clerical either independent of external elements or in connivance with outsiders.

2. Failure on the part of the bank staff to follow meticulously laid down instructions and guidelines.

3. External elements perpetuating frauds on banks by forgeries or manipulations of cheques, drafts and other instruments.

4. There has been a growing collusion between business, top banks executives, civil servants and politicians in power to defraud the banks, by getting the rules bent, regulations flouted and banking norms thrown to the winds.

FRAUDS-PREVENTION AND DETECTION

A close study of any fraud in bank reveals many common basic features. There may have been negligence or dishonesty at some stage, on part of one or more of the bank employees. One of them may have colluded with the borrower. The bank official may have been putting up with the borrower’s sharp practices for a personal gain. The proper care which was expected of the staff, as custodians of banks interest may not have been taken. The bank’s rules and procedures laid down in the Manual instructions and the circulars may not have been observed or may have been deliberately ignored.

Bank frauds are the failure of the banker. It does not mean that the external frauds do not defraud banks. But if the banker is upright and knows his job, the task of defrauder will become extremely difficult, if not possible.

Detection of Frauds

Despite all care and vigilance there may still be some frauds, though their number, periodicity and intensity may be considerably reduced. The following procedure would be very helpful if taken into consideration:

1. All relevant data-papers, documents etc. Should be promptly collected. Original vouchers or other papers forming the basis of the investigation should be kept under lock and key.

2. All persons in the bank who may be knowing something about the time, place a modus operandi of the fraud should be examined and their statements should be recorded.

3. The probable order of events should thereafter be reconstructed by the officer, in his own mind.

4. It is advisable to keep the central office informed about the fraud and further developments in regard thereto.

Classification of Frauds and Action Required by Banks

The Reserve Bank of India had set-up a high level committee in 1992 which was headed by Mr. A… Ghosh, the then Dy. Governor Reserve Bank of India to inquire into various aspects relating to frauds malpractice in banks. The committee had noticed/observed three major causes for perpetration of fraud as given hereunder:

1. Laxity in observance of the laid down system and procedures by operational and supervising staff.

2. Over confidence reposed in the clients who indulged in breach of trust.

3. Unscrupulous clients by taking advantages of the laxity in observance of established, time tested safeguards also committed frauds.

In order to have uniformity in reporting cases of frauds, RBI considered the question of classification of bank frauds on the basis of the provisions of the IPC.
Given below are the Provisions and their Remedial measures that can be taken.

1. Cheating (Section 415, IPC)

Remedial Measures.

The preventive measures in respect of the cheating can be concentrated on cross-checking regarding identity, genuineness, verification of particulars, etc. in respect of various instruments as well as persons involved in encashment or dealing with the property of the bank.

2. Criminal misappropriation of property (Section 403 IPC).

Remedial Measure

Criminal misappropriation of property, presuppose the custody or control of funds or property, so subjected, with that of the person committing such frauds. Preventive measures, for this class of fraud should be taken at the level the custody or control of the funds or property of the bank generally vests. Such a measure should be sufficient, it is extended to these persons who are actually handling or having actual custody or control of the fund or movable properties of the bank.

3. Criminal breach of trust (Section 405, IPC)

Remedial Measure

Care should be taken from the initial step when a person comes to the bank. Care needs to be taken at the time of recruitment in bank as well.

4. Forgery (Section 463, IPC)

Remedial Measure

Both the prevention and detection of frauds through forgery are important for a bank. Forgery of signatures is the most frequent fraud in banking business. The bank should take special care when the instrument has been presented either bearer or order; in case a bank pays forged instrument he would be liable for the loss to the genuine costumer.

5. Falsification of accounts (Section 477A)

Remedial Measure

Proper diligence is required while filling of forms and accounts. The accounts should be rechecked on daily basis.

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