India: Over 480 urban cooperative banks under lens

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Over 480 urban cooperative banks across the country have come under the scanner of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for alleged violation of anti-money laundering laws.

The central bank has been taking strict action like imposition of penalty and denial of branch expansion against the erring urban cooperative banks (UCBs), official sources said. The RBI has issued instructions to its regional offices to undertake scrutiny of 489 UCBs to ascertain compliance of  Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) guidelines, they said.

The matter of misuse of UCBs, over which there is dual control by central and state governments, for money laundering has been a matter of concern of central intelligence agencies. RBI has also been coordinating with the state governments  on the issue and advised strict action against the defaulting UCBs, they said.  The central bank has also issued guidelines to block accounts of all non complying customers, the sources said.

Most of the urban cooperative banks were lax on regulatory issues and were used as conduits for money laundering, they said. It has been observed that the problem of irregularities in the UCBs is of “grave nature” given their wide reach and penetration across the country with 8,100-plus branches which have huge deposits to the tune of Rs 2.09 lakh crore and  advances worth Rs 1.35 lakh crore, according to a report by Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB).