India and the United States held a joint news conference on Thursday, February 11th announcing plans to ramp up joint efforts to stop so-called “black money” flows after an investigation discovered that an Indian bank had been hiding Iranian oil revenues in a complex money-laundering scheme.
More on alleged Iranian “Black Money” scheme
So far the investigation leads to group of people from Iran and Azerbaijan who India on student visas, then apparently set up several shell companies in a provincial city and obtained advances for $3.2 billion from UCO Bank.
Investigators from India’s Enforcement Directorate say the improper advances were secured against export invoices, but no actual deliveries ever occurred.
It turns out the black money funds were actually wired to Dubai, Hong Kong or other locations. To date the investigation has traced 9.25 billion rupees ($150 million) in improper transfers, but suspect the total amount could top 200 billion rupees.
On Monday, the Reserve Bank of India ordered Indian banks to improve their security process on advances paid against trade invoices. According to a source familiar with the ruling, the move by RBI was directly related to the UCO case.
Statements from Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew met with RBI officials in Mumbai on Wednesday. In a press conference after the meeting, Lew said India and the United States were improving cooperation to stop what he termed “threat finance”.
“It’s because we share common threats (that) we share a common commitment to working together to try as best we can to shut down the flow of funding to those who would commit terrorist acts,” he explained in the press conference.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley commented that the case involving on state-controlled UCO Bank had not come up in the talks with Lew, but he did note that Indian authorities had strengthened their financial oversight.
“This issue has been brought to our notice and the concerned authorities, including the central bank, have taken appropriate action,” Jaitley said at the joint presser in New Delhi.