Bahal was so tired this morning that he declined to even move away from the annexe of New Delhi’s Constitution Club for a coffee with us, saying he needs to be available at the venue for any more questions people may have for him. He says some of the stuff in this sting operation is coming “hot off the FCP machines” as we speak.
Short on sleep but high on adrenalin, Bahal told Firstpost in an exclusive chat that he used only a single reporter to uncover the unholy nexus between India’s top three private banks and politicians. He said he decided to do the sting because instances of money laundering were not aberrations but were endemic to our system.
Code named ‘Operation Red Spider’, the sting was conducted by CobraPost’s associate editor Syed Masroor Hasan and alleges a nationwide money laundering scam involving three of the country’s largest private sector banks.
Excerpts from the chat:
FP: When did the idea of doing this sting first occur to you?
Bahal: This issue has been in the public domain for the last two years but we received some information about it five to six months back. It was obviously credible, we decided to check it out. That’s how the entire sting operation idea happened.
FP: Was it a journalist who tipped you off? How do you know the information was credible?
Bahal: We don’t disclose our sources. Anyway, the information we have presented today was obtained through cold calls. People tipped us off that this is happening and we decided to do this in the top three banks, top 20 cities nationwide.
FP: So how did the reporter begin?
Bahal: As I said, just making cold calls got us on to it. These (money laundering transactions) are obviously not aberrations, they are endemic. You will be surprised to know the reporter was offered masala dosa, chai/coffee when he went to these banks.
FP: What do you hope to achieve with this investigation?
Bahal: My job is to be a journalist. We are not activists, our aim is to do stories and push them in the public domain…..a small organisation like us is all it takes to do such a sting. See for yourself, chairmen of these banks are on juries giving awards to journalists.
FP: Did the police or anyone from the Government get in touch with you to get this information?
Bahal: It is too early
FP: Do you anticipate a rash of defamation cases, legal issues now?
Bahal: The evidence we have is too strong. It will be foolish if people file defamation cases against us with this kind of information.
FP: We know one political party has been raising the issue of black money very often. Did any political party get in touch with you for this investigation?
Bahal: No politician, no corporate house has been in touch with us