‘I don’t do fraud’: jury hears ex-NAB staffer’s denials

Miklos Bolza |

Monika Singh claims she did not know blank bank documents would be used for fraud.
Monika Singh claims she did not know blank bank documents would be used for fraud.

A former National Australia Bank employee has admitted giving blank bank documents to alleged criminals but claims she did not know they would be used for fraud, a jury has been told.

Monika Singh, 42, Davendar Deo, 68, and Srinivas Naidu Chamakuri, 51, are on trial at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court where they have pleaded not guilty to a myriad of fraud-related offences.

Singh was a senior associate at NAB’s Sydney branch, where she managed a portfolio of corporate clients.

Srinivas Chamakuri arrives at the Downing Centre District Court
Srinivas Chamakuri and Monika Singh allegedly used NAB vouchers to withdraw almost $16.9 million. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

In September 2018, she allegedly reached an agreement between Chamakuri and another man, Shanmuganathan Gnanasothy, to use fraudulent bank guarantees to purchase property in exchange for commissions, crown prosecutor Andrew Norrie told jurors on Wednesday.

Two bank guarantees worth a total of $86,000 were allegedly used as deposits to purchase off-the-plan apartments built by MassCon Group.

More than $259,000 in commissions were paid to Gnanasothy, but the firm later found out the guarantees were fraudulent, Mr Norrie said.

At a meeting with MassCom’s executives that was recorded in May 2019, Singh admitted creating the fake documents but tried to point the finger at Chamakuri, describing him as “our biggest enemy”, the prosecutor told the jury.

“I don’t do fraud stuff but Naidu has made me look like a fraudster,” Singh allegedly said.

Speaking to police in July 2019, Gnanasothy said he and Chamakuri had been beaten up and threatened by people associated with MassCon over the debt.

In August, Gnanasothy withdrew the police complaint.

NAB sign (file image)
NAB did not lose any money through these schemes as staff prevented transfers, the jury heard (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

He left Australia in November that year and had not returned, leading police to issue a warrant for his arrest, Mr Norrie said.

Singh and Chamakuri also allegedly schemed to use internal bank vouchers from NAB to withdraw almost $16.9 million in cash.

The vouchers act like cheques and can send funds from the bank to external companies and clients.

Singh provided the blank documents to Chamakuri, who then asked an Indian student he had befriended to fill them out and deposit them, Mr Norrie said.

This allegedly occurred on four separate occasions at different Sydney branches in June and September 2019.

Deo and Singh face a similar charge for trying to cheat NAB out of a further $4.8 million using fraudulent vouchers.

NAB did not lose any money through these schemes as staff successfully intervened to prevent the funds being transferred, the jury heard.

The companies allegedly meant to receive the multimillion-dollar deposits were all NAB customers and their directors had never given permission for the money to be transferred, the court was told.

Davendar Deo departs the Downing Centre District Court
Davendar Deo is accused of using identification information to facilitate one fraud. (Miklos Bolza/AAP PHOTOS)

In some cases, the company directors had been appointed to those roles without their knowledge.

In an interview with police in November 2020, Singh was non-committal when asked whether she had ever taken the vouchers outside the office.

Earlier that year, she was interviewed at NAB’s offices after an internal investigation

While admitting that she handed over the blank bank documents, she insisted she had no knowledge they were going to be used for fraud.

She initially denied knowing Gnanasothy but changed her position after NAB investigators showed her an email he sent her, Mr Norrie told the court.

“She stated she got roped into something and was being blackmailed,” he said.

Singh and Deo have also been accused of conspiring with each other to defraud iFRC Bank & Trust by using a fraudulent NAB stand-by letter of credit for $US50 million.

Deo is facing a further charge of using identification information from a separate business to facilitate the fraud.

Between May 2017 and April 2018, Singh also allegedly attempted to defraud Volvo Trucks India through fraudulent bank guarantees from NAB.

The trial continues.