The poker industry in India has gained mostly positive feedback in the last 5 years which has helped this nascent industry to spread its roots and expand its player base. Just as things were looking good for poker in India, the industry has been tarnished after it came to light earlier this week that the Vice President of Goldman Sachs Bengaluru has been arrested for stealing 28 crore rupees which is over $5 million in order to pay back his debts accrued at the poker tables.
Goldman Sachs Theft
Goldman Sachs is one of the top American investment banks which employed Ashwani Jhunjhunwala as its Vice President of Settlements. Jhunjhunwala apparently developed a gambling addiction and got himself in a huge debt after he suffered continuous losses at the poker tables. There is no clear indication if he was playing private high stakes poker games or if he was involved in online poker games or a combination of both.
What was determined was that the 36 year old Vice President used his position in the company to take advantage of junior employees and use their login credentials to carry out unauthorized transactions to steal and transfer money out of the Bengaluru office to a private bank account in China
Jhunjhunwala took three young employees under his wing on the pretext of mentoring them. Last week, he made the three employees login and then sent them away to carry out some tasks. While they were away, he quickly used their systems to carry out unauthorized transactions and transfer a combined total of $5.4 million to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
When one of the young employees realized that his system was used for an authorized transaction, he reported the same to the company’s legal team and they swung into action getting the Bengaluru police involved.
Transaction Reversed – Money Recovered   
The police along with company officials looked at CCTV footage and caught Jhunjhunwala in action. It did not take them long to find out what transpired and they acted swiftly since the transactions were still under process. The bank decided to stop the transactions and put in a reversal which helped them to recover the full amount of stolen money.
Ashwani Jhunjhunwala was arrested by the authorities and he confessed that he had worked together with an ex-employee of the bank called Vedanth Rungta. Apparently Rungta was dismissed from the bank for trying to carry out a similar unauthorized transaction. He advised Jhunjhunwala how to carry out the illegal transaction. The authorities have also arrested Rungta for his role in the matter.
Jhunjhunwala is alleged to have told the authorities that he got himself into a lot of trouble by borrowing heavily to finance his poker action. Not knowing how to pay back his debtors, he decided to see if he could swipe the cash from Goldman Sachs quietly. Goldman Sachs immediately terminated his services and have confirmed that they will file criminal proceedings against him.
Investigation Will Reveal More Details
This high profile arrest gives the poker industry in India a bad rap. The investigation should reveal some interesting facts that could further tarnish the reputation of poker in India or help to clear it up.
For one, the authorities should find out where Jhunjhunwala was playing poker. Was it at a licensed poker room or was it taking place at an underground location. The second aspect of the investigation should reveal who was lending the former Goldman Sachs VP so much of money and who owns the bank account at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
If the investigation shows that Jhunjhunwala’s loans came from financial backers in China, it is quite possible that criminal syndicates are involved since millions of dollars were loaned to him. It is also quite possible that some or most of these funds could have been laundered.
If the investigation shows that Jhunjhunwala incurred these poker losses at legalized poker rooms in the country, then the authorities should investigation their money laundering and responsible gambling policies to see if the poker operator(s) have compromised their policies and allowed him to spend so much money at the poker tables!

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