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Home Trade scam-hit banks yet to get relief

Summit Khanna in Ahmedabad | November 26, 2004 12:11 IST
Last Updated: November 26, 2004 12:49 IST

Nearly three years since the Home Trade scam broke out, most of the cooperative banks that had invested in the brokerage firm are uncertain of recovering their deposits.

Of the five South Gujarat based cooperative banks that were indicted by the Reserve Bank of India in the scam, four are yet to get a penny out of the Rs 52 crore (Rs 520 million) they had invested in Home Trade.

The Navi Mumbai based brokerage firm had, under the pretext of gilt trading, swindled almost Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion) from cooperative banks - mostly in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Most of these banks are facing a severe cash crunch now. On November 11, the RBI had revoked the licence of Valsad-based Sheth B B Shroff Balsar People's Cooperative Bank, one of the five scam-hit banks. The bank had invested Rs 22 crore (Rs 220 million) in Home Trade.

The condition of the other four - Surat Nagarik Cooperative Bank, Surat Mahila Nagarik Cooperative Bank, Udhna Citizens Cooperative Bank and Adajan Nagarik Cooperative Bank is not much better.

"Like other cooperative banks, we too were fooled by Home Trade. We made the investments expecting good returns, but it never happened and we had to wash our hands off our own money. The company (Home Trade) directors have announced bankruptcy, so there is hardly any hope of recovering any money," Surat Mahila Nagarik Bank chairman, Rajshri Doctor, said.

Sources in the state cooperation department said the Surat Mahila Nagarik Co-operative Bank may also face a crisis because of the Home Trade scam. The bank had invested Rs 7.42 crore (74. 2 million) in Home Trade. With interest, this amount has increased to over Rs 9 crore (Rs 90 million).

"The Home Trade scam was the beginning of tough times for co-operative banks. Diamond Jubilee Co-operative Bank and Suryapur Co-operative Bank, collapsed in the same period. We have somehow managed so far, but survival seems to have become increasingly difficult now," Doctor added.

"We have filed a case against Home Trade. Most of the accused in the Home Trade scam are in jail. We believe there is a realistic chance of recovering our money, as the company owns several properties. So, though the money is almost lost, we still hope that it would be recovered some day," Udhna Citizens Bank chairman Setu Madhavan, said.

The bank invested Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) to Home Trade. The Adajan Nagarik Co-operative Bank lost Rs 3 crore in the Home Trade scam. The bank was caught in a crisis a few months back, but experts say it has improved its position.

The Surat Nagarik Bank, which invested Rs 16 crore (Rs 160 million) in Home Trade, has also not recovered any money as yet. However, the bank authorities are confident of recovering the money.

"We are confident that we will recover the full money from Home Trade. We have the documents related to certain properties owned by Home Trade in Ahmedabad. These properties are valued at Rs 45 to 50 crore (Rs 450-500 million)," the bank's chairman Mahendra Katargamwala said.

"We have got the clearance from court to sell these properties. If there are no more legal hurdles, we will sell the properties within three months," he added. Though the co-operative banks are confident of recovering their investments, industry experts feel there is little hope of it happening.

"Surat Nagarik Cooperative Bank has some properties of Home Trade, so it could recover its dues. No other bank of Surat has any chance of recovering any money. These banks would have to write off this money in the coming months. Even Surat Nagarik Bank would be extremely lucky if it can recover the entire money," summed up a banking expert.

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