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India

Indian bank head arrested over bribery allegations

Indian police have arrested the chairman of a state-run bank for allegedly accepting bribes to increase the credit limit of private firms. It is one of the most high profile cases involving a serving bank chief in India.

India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – the country's top crime-fighting body - also arrested 11 other people over bribery allegations over the weekend, including the brother-in-law of the Syndicate Bank's chairman and managing director Sudhir Kumar Jain.

"We arrested him (Jain) [early Sunday local time] from Bangalore and he will be produced in court later today (Monday)," Kanchan Prasad, the CBI spokesperson, told the news agency AFP, on Sunday.

The CBI said it had "laid a trap" and recovered five million rupees ($82,000), which was allegedly paid to Jain by private companies through middlemen to get extensions on their loans.

Two directors of Delhi-based private firms had also been detained in the same case, revealed India's anti-corruption officials. The companies, the CBI said, had been defaulting on loan repayments to the medium-sized Syndicate Bank amounting to millions of rupees. The anti-graft body said its investigation was ongoing.

Two companies for which Jain allegedly enhanced the credit limit are Prakash Industries and Bhushan Steel, which are also being investigated in a coal block allocation scam.

The authorities said they had found several documents, computer records and evidence which proved that a number of other banks were also involved in the scandal through the same set of middlemen.

"We will probe the larger conspiracy involving other banks as we have recovered huge amount of incriminating material," CBI Director, Ranjit Sinha, told the Times of India newspaper.

Jain has worked in the banking sector for nearly 26 years and has been chief of the Syndicate Bank since July 8, 2013.

Anti-corruption drive

In a similar case late last year, Indian officials investigated a senior executive of the State Bank of India for allegedly taking bribes to sanction loans to a company.

The South Asian country's state-run banks have been hit with bad and restructured loans, as companies drown in debt and India's economy struggles through its worst slowdown since the 1980s.

Former premier Manmohan Singh's government was hit by a string of corruption scandals in previous years. Singh was criticized for being too lenient with corrupt ministers and state officials.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power after a landslide victory in April-May parliamentary elections, has vowed to eradicate corruption from India and fix the economy.

shs/kms (AFP, Reuters)