Police in Bengaluru, India have arrested Goldman Sachs vice president Ashwani Jhunjhunwala after he allegedly tried to pull off a $10 million scam to help pay off outstanding debts, much of which was accumulated through online poker.
Jhunjhunwala, who served as the vice president of forex and equity settlements at the Bengaluru office, attempted to fraudulently transfer 380 million rupees ($5.3 million) to a Chinese bank account using computers that belonged to his subordinates, according to the indictment.
Police Say Mounting Debt Led to Desperate Scheme
Local police arrested both 36-year-old Jhunjhunwala and his former Goldman Sachs colleague Vedanth Rungta, who is said to have concocted the fraudulent scheme.
Police allege that Jhunjhunwala lost 4.7 million rupees ($65,700) playing online poker, and had another 4.5 million rupees ($63,000) in loans from HDFC Bank. According to law enforcement officials, Jhunjhunwala was unsure of how to deal with his mounting debt.
He had to do something to ensure that he did not have to give up the high-flying lifestyle he was used to,” an investigating officer on the case told the Times of India. “When a former colleague, Vedant Rungta, suggested a way to defraud the company [of] $10 million or more, he thought he’d found a way to wriggle out of the colossal mess that he’d created for himself.”
According to police, Jhunjhunwala turned to Rungta, a former colleague who had already been forced out of Goldman Sachs after committing a previous fraud. Jhunjhunwala was allegedly promised $400,000 if he could pull off the scheme. In the meantime, Rungta allowed him to borrow 700,000 rupees ($9,800) in order to tide him over.
Goldman Sachs Employees Discovered Transactions
Unfortunately for the duo, Goldman Sachs uncovered their alleged scheme on Sept. 6 after an employee alerted senior officials about two large and unusual transactions. According to a complaint filed by the company’s legal department, three employees said that Jhunjhunwala had claimed that he wanted to review their work in order to gain access to their computers, which were then used to make the transfers.
According to police, Jhunjhunwala said that it took him just 10 minutes to make transfers worth $5.4 million out of company accounts.
After Jhunjhunwala accessed junior employee Gaurav Mishra’s computer on the pretext of reviewing his work, he asked Mishra to fetch some water,” an officer told the Times of India. “He set up a window for third-party payment instructions using Mishra’s credentials and transferred $5.4 million to the account of Synergy Wisdom Ltd., Hong Kong. Before Mishra could return, the job was done.”
Goldman Sachs legal head Abhishek Parsheera filed a complaint of criminal breach of trust and cheating by impersonation with local police on Sunday, and police arrested Jhunjhunwala on Tuesday.
The poker world is no stranger to criminal activities being used to deal with gambling debts. Sometimes they can be of a smaller scale, such as the airport fraud accusations against poker player Michael Borovetz, who was recently arrested at a Detroit airport.
Jhunjhunwala is hardly the first poker player to be accused of fraud on a larger scale. Back in 2015, Arnaud Mimran was accused of fraud – and perhaps even a connection to a series of murders – over the sale of carbon tax emission quotas, and the fact that he didn’t seem to have the income to support his lavish lifestyle, which included participating in high roller poker tournaments.