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ATM cash crisis: PMO's multi-agency task force to investigate situation, 2600 entities under scanner

The unit has been asked to submit its report within 15 daysAlok Priyadarshi 

ATM cash crisis: PMO's multi-agency task force to investigate situation, 2600 entities under scanner
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Alok Priyadarshi

A multi-agency task force has been set up by the Centre to investigate the recent paucity of cash in banks and ATMs, with the government planning to take strict action against those responsible. Sources close to the development told Zee Media that the unit, to be formed under Prime Minister's Office (PMO), has been asked to submit its report within 15 days.

Top level officials are reportedly viewing the recent hype around cash crunch as a political conspiracy being created to mislead the nation with upcoming elections, at least when enough cash is available in the country.

The reason behind the crisis will be known only after a detailed report on the issue has been prepared, the Finance Ministry earlier said. Its action will be dependent on the outcome of the report.

Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, exclusively accessed by Zee Business, suggests that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) will be acting as a nodal investigating agency in the investigation that is being carried out by the task force. Currently, 2600 branches of government and private banks are on the radar of the investigating agencies.

Banks also need to submit reports on any and every suspicious transaction as well as suspicious activities to the FIU at the earliest, the IB report adds. It says, Red Flag Indicators have been inserted in small and inactive bank accounts, to get an information related to multiple withdrawals from these accounts through immediate alerts, which is being monitored at the control room of the FIU.

To monitor real-time transactions and suspicious transactions, the FIU upgraded its FINEX server in recent past which will help in alerting a situation. In addition, the Income Tax department, which is in action has been raiding and surveying at several states that are suffering from the cash crisis.

Banks have been advised to conduct an internal forensic audit of the transactions. A team of senior bank officers has also been formed in each bank to monitor every activity of its branches. Instructions have been given to all banks to submit its balance report, balance status, cash report, reports of Jan Dhan accounts and zero balance accounts on the daily basis. Reports related to suspicious accounts and their transaction information have been sought separately.

Under the process, the alerts will be first sent to a senior official of the branch and then it will be sent to the head office of the bank and later to the FIU, which will be responsible to share the alert with the concerned department. All transactions are checked on all parameters of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

To ensure the digital trail of the notes, a Transition monitoring system (TMS) has been created, which will be providing all information related to the banknotes, .i.e., the place from where it was supplied, consumed, re-deposited in the banks, the account to which it was deposited among others.Apart from this, the banks have also been asked to monitor through the custom identity management system, which includes CCTV and other methods. 

Other steps being taken to find the loopholes and identify the culprits of this cash crisis includes an immediate alert to concerned authority in cases where transaction amount goes above Rs 10 lakhs and customs departments at airports and ports have been alerted and asked to monitor any undeclared foreign currency. Air Intelligence Unit is coordinating with the rest of the agencies and this coordination has led to arrest in many places.

A monitoring committee has been created in the Ministry of Finance to monitor the activities of government employees. The committee includes intelligence, revenue officers along with members from other agencies.