Insurance gateway for money laundering

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Insurance gateway for money laundering

NEW DELHI: Tinoo and Arvind Joshi, the suspended IAS couple from Madhya Pradesh, faced CBI raids soon after it was discovered that they had purchased life insurance policies from a private insurer. The high-value transaction could not have gone unnoticed.

But there are several thousand cases that go undetected. For long, life insurance policies have been seen as a passport to convert “black money” into “white”. There are multiple ways that agents use for anyone willing to bring unaccounted cash into the financial system.

Insurance industry executives and agents said the easiest way to do it is to pass on the commission to the client. For instance, if you buy a policy for Rs 1 crore, the commission amount of, say, Rs 20 lakh is given to the agent who then passes it on to the policyholder, although sharing of commission is illegal and can lead to cancellation of the agent’s permit.

In fact, that is one reason why relatives of businessmen, politicians and filmstars often become agents as the commission doesn’t need to be transferred to the insured and yet remains within the family.

But can someone with Rs 1 crore cash buy a policy? “It’s possible and agents are willing partners,” said a prominent development officer of Life Insurance Corporation. The development officer, who manages a group of agents for the company, claimed that there were several instances where Rs 50,000 – the permissible level of cash deposits – was deposited in cash on a daily basis and often went undetected. After a few days, the company issues a policy and the entire amount then gets “white”.

Insurance company executives said this operation was best suited for single-premium policies, or those where the entire premium was paid upfront. Therefore, the commission also comes in one go.
There is yet another common practice in the industry, which relates to lapsed policies and even managements are involved.
Typically, these operations are undertaken by dummy agents or financier-turned agent in what is commonly known as recycling in industry parlance. The agent, usually someone with loads of unaccounted cash, becomes an agent and gets a list of policies that are no longer operational as the premium has not been paid. The agent then approaches the policyholders and revives the policy by paying the pending installment. This entitles the agent to the commission and helps in converting the amount into white.

There are also allegations that micro insurance policies are the latest tool as several covers have been issued to “fake policyholders”.

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