The Dubious Track Record of J&K Bank

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Loans Extended to Individuals Rooted In Kashmir’s Terror Ecosystem

Loans Went Bad, High Accumulation of NPAs

Who all in JK Bank benefitted from the defaults on these huge loans? Accountability must be fixed

Non Performing Assets, or loans that go bad, are a scourge faced by all banks. The global experience is that many of these loans are given in collusion with the top brass of the bank, who have a share in the loot. Jammu and Kashmir Bank has gone several steps further. Investigative agencies have found that the top management of J&K Bank extended loans to individuals who were rooted Kashmir’s terror ecosystem. These loans later went bad and were written away as Non Performing Assets.

We thus have the unique situation where individuals who were decimating the authority and legitimacy of the state were being given huge loans by the state purportedly in the name of business loans. The management of J&K Bank extended the huge loans to these individuals even though the criminal and anti-state credentials of these individuals were known. By extending them huge loans despite being aware of their credentials, the bank became party to their criminal acts.

The question is – who should be held accountable for such gross dereliction of duty in a bank entrusted by the state for safeguarding the state’s finances and also the money deposited by lakhs of account-holders? Accountability must be fixed upon the top management of the bank who were party to the dishing out of loans to individuals with clear and evident anti-state credentials.

Jammu and Kashmir Bank, the lead banker for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, has a huge amount of Rs 6954.75 crore as gross non-performing Assets (NPAs), going by official figures. Again, according to official figures, the bank has 1969.33 crores net non-performing assets up on the financial year ending March 2021. Sources state that these official figures do not reveal the real picture. Sources claim that the gross NPAs of J&K Bank are more than Rs 10,000 crore. The high rate of NPAs is on account of high credit defaults. These have impacted the profitability and net worth of the bank. They also erode the value of the assets held by the bank.

A number of loans given by J&K Bank have consistently been driven by favoritism and political considerations. Funds from the bank were used by unscrupulous beneficiaries to strengthen and support the terror network in the region. Many former chairmen of the bank sanctioned heavy loans to their friends in the business mafia, to unworthy individuals with strong political links or for other considerations. These loans later made it to the list of NPAs.

Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali

Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Ahmad Watali Shah was advanced Rs 6.80 crore as loan by J&K Bank. He later requested for one time settlement (OTS) of the loan. OTS is facilitated for those accounts which have a huge loan but are not able to pay back due to loss in business and bankruptcy. Some businessmen deliberately take huge loans from the banks, get their business insured and then declare bankruptcy to fraudulently make money. These deceitful activities often take place with the collusion of bank officers, who have a share in the huge funds siphoned from the bank.

Watali has been a known criminal of the state. Enforcement Directorate had attached properties of Watali and his family members worth Rs 8.94 crore, and had accused him of raising funds and operating as a financial conduit for Hurriyat leaders. Watali was also charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in connection with the probe into the terror-financing case against Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed. The central probe agency had attached Watali’s property in Gurugram, worth over Rs 1.03 crore and Rs 6.19 crore in Jammu and Kashmir. With this, the total proceeds of crime under investigation till August 2019 had gone up to Rs 8.94 crore.

Watali’s dubious networks and dealings were known in Kashmir. It was also known that he has properties worth lakhs in India, Dubai, Britain and also at other places. Despite his huge assets, the loan taken by him was listed in red and categorized as NPA.

The Bad Loans of Mohd Yaseen Khan

Mohd Yaseen Khan, president of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation, has always been on the forefront to drive the separatist narrative in Kashmir. His toxic political and ideological leanings have been known to all. For about three decades, Yaseen Khan has spread venom against the state. He has always been critical of each and every action of the state.

Yaseen Khan was fuelling unrest in Kashmir and was receiving funds from across the border for the purpose. He was summoned by the National Investigation Agency many times in relation to its investigations on terror funding cases.

Despite his malicious attitude towards the state, Yaseen Khan never refrained from drawing extensive benefits from the state. This is the actual plundering of state resources by non-state actors. It is a matter of grave dereliction of duty by J&K Bank that huge loans were extended to such an individual. The UT Administration must also take note of the fact that these loans were not returned. The Bank listed these loans as NPA.

Yaseen Khan used the Controlled Atmosphere (CA) stores, used for the apple crop, as the tool to siphon the wealth of the state. He took a loan of Rs 25 crore from J&K Bank in the ruse of opening CA stores. The loan was taken not in his own name but in the name of another account holder named Firdous of Barzulla, Srinagar. Since the loan was taken to open new CA stores, the account holder received huge subsidy on the loan amount. The document for the fraud by Yaseen Khan says: Prop. Asif Shangloo (Aksa Mall) and Others. One more CA store proposal Face Trading With Poloview for Rs 30 crore. As president of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation, Yaseen Khan created a market mafia and grabbed control over the federation. Such domineering action was possible for him because of his close links with terrorist organizations. Yaseen Khan used these links to spread terror among other members of the body and to strengthen his personal position.

It cannot be ruled out that the money received by Yaseen Khan in the form of subsidy from the state, and also taken as loan from the bank reached terrorist organizations. Yaseen Khan and other individuals like him have a proven track record of being terror sympathizers and fuelling unrest. The top management of the bank must be held accountable for approving huge loans for a man with such criminal links and background. The fact that the loan turned into an NPA later compounds the error committed by the bank management.

ESS QUE Partners

Ess Que Patners Syed Siraj ud Din, Syed Shaqeel Qalander, Imtiyaz and Sajad Qalander have two joinery mills, Ess Que Partners and Dunes Drung. They took Rs 18 crore as loan from JK Bank. The two accounts Ess Que and Dunes Drung defaulted on the loan in 2009 and 2015.

Later, the bank allowed one time settlement of Rs 16.5 crore against the NPA balance of Rs 18 crores in five different accounts. By defaulting on the loan, Syed Siraj ud Din, Syed Shaqeel Qalander, Imtiyaz and Sajad Qalander made a clean gain of Rs 1.5 crore from JK Bank. In addition, the interest due on the loan was also waived off through the convenient route of One Time Settlement.

Syed Shaqeel Qalander, a businessman, is on the forefront in driving the separatist narrative in kashmir. He gave the slogan of Now or Never in the year 2016. He is also an active member of the Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS). The group is led by Professor Hameeda Nayeem of the University of Kashmir. The other active members of the group are Abdul Majeed Zargar, Dr Javed Iqbal, Zareef Ah Zareef, Z G Mohammad and Arjimand Hussain Talib. Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies is a grand, sophisticated name for a group which has played the lead role in building false, Pakistan-sponsored narratives on Kashmir. It is a travesty that the lies peddled out by the cleverly named Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies were lapped up by diverse sections of the media. KCSDS claimed that it was a civil society body.

The bona fide of Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies can be assessed from the following fact: Prof Hameeda Nayeem heads this so-called civil society group. She is the wife of Naeem Khan, a militant-turned-separatist.

In a sting operation by the India Today Group in May 2017, Naeem Khan confessed to receiving funds from Pakistan to create unrest in Kashmir Valley. Nayeem Khan, Farooq Dar alias Bitta Karate and Gazi Javaid Baba admitted on screen that Pakistan was funding the Kashmir unrest by pumping money into Kashmir valley through Hurriyat leaders including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others to keep the pot boiling. Naeem was shown in the video saying that even the burning down of schools in 2016 violence was done after receiving funds from Pakistan to continue the unrest in the valley. Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies is a shadow organisation of Hurriyat Conference, the Pakistan-sponsored organization which spearheaded separatism in Kashmir. Hurriyat Conference presided over brutal violence against the common Kashmiris perpetrated by the terrorists.

The Sheikhs

Iqbal Sheikh is the owner of various hotels in the name of Pine Springs. These hotels are located in Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Wazir Bagh. Iqbal Sheikh and Co took loan of Rs 40 crore from JK Bank. They later defaulted on the loans.

Manzoor Ahmad Bhat from Barzulla, Baghat purchased a hotel at Sonamarg. He raised a loan of about Rs 9 crore from JK Bank Chanapora branch. He received the amount of Rs 3 crore from this amount. The balance Rs 5 crore went into the account of Iqbal Sheikh.

Javid Ahmad Wani from Rainawari took a loan of Rs 22 crore from Chanapora Branch of JK Bank. The stated purpose was to purchase a hotel from Iqbal Sheikh, located at Wazir Bagh on condition that the proceedings will go for loan adjustment of Hotel Pine, Iqbal Resorts amounting to Rs 17 crore. No sale deed was issued to Javid. The amount received from Iqbal was deposited into the current credit (CC) account of Iqbal Sheikh, instead of loan accounts.

The loan money was diverted into various other accounts, mainly in adjusting overdrafts. It is evident that the NPA accounts could easily be brought out of the red if these transactions were directly deposited to the loan accounts. Instead, the transactions were diverted to other accounts or payments were made to other persons.

JK Bank Is Wonderfully Generous For Criminals, Shady Anti-State Individuals

Examine the wonderful ways in which JK Bank stretches itself to accommodate criminals and anti-state individuals.

Zahoor Watali is currently in jail because of his criminal activities against the state. Shakeel Qalandar was held in custody after the abrogation of Article 370 because of his shady anti-state activities in the past. But just about a month ago, some senior officers in JK Bank put forth the proposal that Zahoor Watali should be allowed to make a one-time settlement. The proposal was put forth on the ground that the loan on which Watali has defaulted can be adjusted within the balance sheets of the bank. Sources revealed to KZINE that J&K Bank has proposed that Watali should be allowed a one-time settlement of Rs 5.20 crore. Watali defaulted on the loan of Rs 6.80 crore. Who pockets the Rs 1.60 crore in this equation? Who should be held accountable for this lapse? Again, just about a month ago, some senior officers of JK Bank proposed that Shakeel Qalandar of Ess Que Partners and his associates should be offered a one-time settlement of Rs 16.5 crore. The total loan on which Shakeel Qalandar and his associates defaulted was Rs 18 crore. Hence, Qalandar and others made Rs 1.5 crore by defaulting on the loan. Happily, the loan interest was waived off too.

Which officers in the senior management of the bank should be held accountable for these fraudulent activities against the state?

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