The Keshwapur police in Hubballi town have registered an FIR against four SBI bank officials for criminal breach of trust and cheating.
A 59-year-old businessman from Hubballi has lodged a complaint with the Karnataka police against four senior bank officials over missing ancestral ornaments.
He complained after he found that one of his two bank lockers was already open and the ancestral jewellery worth ₹56.3 lakh in 2013, along with land and other documents, including his father’s will, had gone missing.
The other locker had been tampered with, and it was unable to be opened with the key given by the bank, he said.
Based on the complaint from the businessman, Ish Bomeshwar Kohli, the Keshwapur police registered an FIR against the four officials of the Keshwapur main branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) in Hubballi. The cops have booked them for criminal breach of trust and cheating.
The accused in the FIR have been identified as Assistant General Manager (AGM) Dileep Kembhavi, Deputy Manager Santosh, bank official Ravi Shankar, and Regional Manager Mohan Patil.
Kohli told South First that his father Bomeshwar Kohli had been using a savings bank account at the SBI’s Keshwapur main branch since 1972. He had rented two bank lockers: No 1/5 and No 1/12.
“My father used to keep the family’s ancestral jewellery and land and other documents in one locker. He kept wedding gifts and other valuables inside the other locker,” Kohli told South First.
It was in 2013, Kohli confirmed, that his father had taken him and his mother along — the last time they visited — to show the two lockers and explain to them what was inside them.
“My father was in his 80s and had age-related ailments. His mobility was also impaired. Hence, he decided to show us how to operate the bank lockers. All the jewellery and land documents were inside the locker at that time,” Kohli told South First.
His father passed away in March 2014. Since the family had to run the businesses and the metal-gate-manufacturing company left behind by his father, years passed by without them visiting the locker.
Kohli’s mother, who was suffering from arthritis, used to pester him to take her to the bank to check on the lockers. Since Kohli was busy at work, he kept postponing it.
However, on 1 December this year, Kohli finally took his mother to the bank. They reached the bank around 12.30 pm and he had to fill out a form that his mother signed, and they were escorted by a bank official to the locker vault.
Kohli’s mother gave the key to the bank official, who tried to open the locker in front of them. However, he found the locker already open, and nothing in it.
Kohli and his mother were shell-shocked. “My father had kept gold and diamond jewellery worth ₹56.3 lakh according to the 2013 rates. It is worth around ₹1.5 crore,” said Kohli.
“The gold ornaments included my parents’ wedding rings, my mother’s mangalsutra, and other grand ornaments. More than the price, memories and heritage of my family that have gone missing from a nationalised bank’s locker,” he added.
Kohli informed the bank manager, who came and checked the lockers, but it was of no use or help.
“The bank officials were not cooperative at all, and attempted to blame us for leaving the locker open the last time we operated it. How can someone who takes a bank locker on rent and puts in gold and other valuables in it leave it open and go?” Kohli asked the bank officials.
Kohli and his mother were at the bank until about 8 pm that day, but they could not get a clue where the gold ornaments and documents had gone and why their other locker was not opening and was jammed.
There was also no CCTV camera inside the locker vault room. “When the bank officials used the master keys inside other lockers, it would go inside and move, but the key wouldn’t move when it was put into the keyhole of locker no 1/12,” Kohli told South First.
The bank officials then asked him to come the next day as they would summon the locker vault company’s technician. The next day, Kohli and his mother were at the bank when a technician named Haveri came.
Haveri authenticated the key Kohli’s mother had, and said the second locker’s lock had been tampered with.
When Kohli insisted that the bank officials file a complaint with the police as the gold ornaments had been stolen from the locker, the officials apparently told him that they would want to go through all the records of how many times the two lockers were operated from 2013.
Kohli sensed that there would be no help from the bank officials, and headed straight to the Keshwapur Police Station, where he filed a complaint against four bank officials.
A senior police officer told South First that the investigation would start with the probing of the records of the bank related to the operation of the two lockers in question.
He added that the current manager would be pulled up and inquired into for his negligence.
“The police also will have to probe the records and question bank officials involved during that time if nothing fruitful emerges with the recent records and officials,” Hubballi North ACP Ballappa Nandaganvi told South First.
Meanwhile, Kohli flew to New Delhi to meet the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with a complaint against the SBI for criminal breach of trust and cheating of unsuspecting bank customers.