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The CRB Scam

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Case Details:

Case Code : FINC008
Case Length : 9 Pages
Period : 1993 - 1997
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : CRB Group, SEBI
Industry : Financial Services
Countries : India

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"Every single drop of my blood is for the depositors."

- Chain Roop Bhansali in 1997.

The Doomed Depositors

May 18, 1997 - hundreds of angry, frustrated and scared people stood outside the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Mumbai headquarters under the scorching sun. They were waiting for Chain Roop Bhansali (Bhansali), the head of the CRB Group of companies to arrive.

Three days earlier the RBI had given Bhansali 72 hours to come up with a plan to repay his liabilities following over 400 complaints from depositors in his company's financial schemes. Most top officials of CRB were untraceable from the second week of May itself. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) locked and sealed the offices of the CRB Group and arrested six persons, including four directors (two from Bikaner and two from Mumbai) of the satellite companies of the group, a financial controller in Mumbai and a relative and close associate of Bhansali in Delhi. The CBI also conducted simultaneous searches at 16 places in Mumbai, three in New Delhi, one each in Chennai and Ahmedabad and two places each in Calcutta, Jhunjunu, Sujangarh and Bikaner.

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The CBI froze the bank accounts of the group companies and seized incriminating files and other documents from the residence of the vice-president of the CRB group in Mumbai. Following rumors that Bhansali had fled India and was hiding in Hong Kong or Canada, the CBI sought Interpol's assistance to trace his whereabouts. RBI filed a winding-up petition claiming that the continuance of the CRB Group was not in the interest of the public and depositors.

The order prohibited CRB from selling, transferring, mortgaging or dealing in any manner with its assets and from accepting public deposits. In response, Bhansali sent a letter to the RBI. Though it was not signed by him, the letter said that the RBI order had led to the deterioration of the company's financial position. It added that the company was facing tremendous problems with payments to fixed depositors. The letter further said that 'we have, also expressed that in view of the precarious situation which is fast going out of our control, before it becomes unmanageable, our case should be considered sympathetically.' This letter led the investors to believe that Bhansali would come out of hiding and work out a way to get out of the mess.

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