Public memory is short. In this day and age, where the average attention span is 8.25 seconds, there is no time to remember current events, leave alone what happened over a period of years. Nowadays, while liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s huge debts to banks are lead stories, the media appears to have downplayed the previous week’s third conviction of former Indian Bank Chairman and Managing Director M Gopalakrishnan.
Who is Gopalakrishnan? The younger generation may not be aware of what Indian Bank is and its Chairman and Managing Director (CMD)’s frauds of the 1980s and 90s.
Congress and Tamil Nadu based political parties would like to forget this inconvenient truth about how more than ₹1500 crores ($225 million) of public money was swindled by the Chennai based Indian Bank to politically connected shell companies and defaulters for the past 20-30 years. Reasons for this are obvious – parties develop selective amnesia when they are facing elections and no one wants to rake up the memory of common man.
Gopalakrishnan was head of the public sector Indian Bank till 1996 and was so powerful that he got seven extensions as Chairman and Managing Director. Before that he was the Executive Director of the Bank for several years. He was close with Congress and later Tamil Manila Congress leader G K Moopanar and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram. He was also close to all Dravidian parties as the headquarters of the bank is situated in Chennai.
Whenever the Intelligence Bureau gave adverse reports, the Congress government in Center would simply ignore it and grant an extension to this powerful banker. As Gopalakrishnan was a benevolent advertisement provider, media world too was silent on him for a long time. In Chennai based papers, in his heydays, almost every day, newspapers carried Gopalakrishnan’s photos about him inaugurating and giving sermons in one function or the other throughout the state. In a way, he was an Automated Teller Machine(ATM) of several media barons of Tamil Nadu.
It is also a known fact (later proved in investigations), that most of the irrecoverable loans that piled up to more than ₹1500 crores ($225 million) were sanctioned by Gopalakrishnan after recommendation notes were passed to him by powerful political masters. However, CBI did not touch the political masters and around 20 cases were registered against the banker and his subordinates in 1998. Till now he has been convicted in three cases from 2009.
Gopalakrishnan is now 81 years and appeals are pending against convictions and rest of the cases are still in trial stages in the lower court. Several accused and witnesses have passed away. Most of the persons – accused and witnesses in one of the biggest bank scams in India are in the age of 70 to 85. The three convictions of Gopalakrishnan in 2009, 2012 and the previous week ranges from 14 years to 2 years of rigorous imprisonments and fines of around Rs. 90 lakhs.
The scam of doling out loans to shell companies and firms patronized by politicians by Indian Bank was blown out of proportion in 1996. Two reasons were behind this expose, say old-timers. One is that the bad debts crossed ₹1000 crores ($150 million) and the new management decided to blow the lid. The second was Congress in Tamil Nadu was vertically split in 1996 after Moopanar and Chidambaram floated Tamil Manila Congress and the enmity between Congress and TMC exposed this grant banking swindling.
But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) were literally stopped on their tracks on acting against the Indian Bank officials and its CMD Gopalakrishnan. The reason was simple. Chidambaram was the Finance Minister during 1996 to 1998 in Deve Gowda and Gujral led governments. The agencies started acting only after the then Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy filed a case against the CBI. It is now legal history as to how Chidambaram tried to protect his close friend Gopalakrishnan. Swamy Vs CBI case on Sanction for Prosecution and Government rules on protecting officers above Joint Secretary from CBI probes and later directions and Judgments of Supreme Court against the protection to corrupt officers by political masters are now part of the legal history. Even though governments changed, all governments wanted to maintain the Sanction for Prosecution shield to protect their conniving bureaucrats.
Now Gopalakrishnan, the executor of political masters’ directions is caught by the long arm of law. He is 81 years, out on bail and physically unwell due to age related issues. He comes to the CBI Court with assistance of aides. More than 10 cases are pending against him including appeals against convictions. His political masters escaped from Indian Bank looting and still give sermons to the society. They all tried to delay and stretch the case of the pliable tainted banker. It is a matter of fact that Gopalakrishnan’s cases were conveniently put on regular court to delay the judicial process and all political masters played their own part by not constituting a daily trial fast track court. The delay in judicial process is the best way to evade public limelight.
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 66.53 Rupees.
2. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
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