The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strong-arm shadow on loan death

Hyderabad, June 24: A 42-year-old government electrician has died after allegedly being kidnapped and confined by agents of a loan-recovery firm hired by ICICI Bank.

The complaint from victim K. Yadaiah’s wife says he was tortured to death but the police are waiting for the post-mortem report.

Conflicting versions are swirling around the life lost but the controversy has again brought under glare alleged strong-arm tactics to recover debt — the unsavoury side to personal loans no pesky sales force would ever forewarn of.

A case of wrongful confinement has already been filed against the agents, who are said to have hunted the man down with the help of a passport-size photo taken from his wife.

The death of the medical and health sciences department employee, who had taken a loan of Rs 15,000 for his daughter’s wedding two years ago, comes four months after the Supreme Court told banks not to hire “goondas” to recover loans.

Yadaiah had not paid the EMI for over seven months, causing his dues to rise to Rs 30,000, a bank official said. ICICI had handed the case over to Elite Financial Services, which recovers loans for many private banks.

The bank said in a statement from Mumbai that Yadaiah was feeling “unwell” when he, “on his own”, came to Elite’s office “for making payments of overdue installments”. Elite’s representatives, it said, provided “all possible support for his medical treatment”.

Elite owner Ramesh said Yadaiah had suffered fits and collapsed in the company’s office and was declared dead at a hospital.

But the victim’s wife Sunanda claimed he was kidnapped from his office in Sultan Bazar.

A colleague said he saw Yadaiah leaving the office with “some people”. “Yadaiah went along with some people in the morning soon after coming to office. He appeared very depressed,” said Shekh Hussain, a peon of the health department.

Sunanda said four men, led by Elite agent Raju, came to her home yesterday. Learning that Yadaiah was at work, they asked her for a picture of her husband.

According to her, Yadaiah was forced into a car and driven to the Elite office at Amerpet where he was questioned for over two hours.

At 12.30pm, Sunanda said, she received a call from a frantic Yadaiah who asked her to somehow arrange for Rs 15,000 at once. “He said he wouldn’t be allowed to come home if he didn’t pay that sum.”

Around 2pm, a second call, this one from the police, told her Yadaiah’s body was lying at Maitri Hospital in Sanjeevreddinagar.

Inspector G. Narasiah of Punjagutta police station, where Sunanda lodged her complaint, said the dead man’s forehead bore the mark of an injury that seemed to have been caused by a blunt weapon. “The post-mortem report will prove if it was murder or a natural death,” he said.

The police are looking for Raju who, Elite officials said, ran away as soon as Yadaiah collapsed.

A senior bank official, however, said a “compromise deal” was being worked out with Sunanda and hinted she might withdraw her complaint.

“We are addressing the issue from a humanitarian angle, providing both compensation and a waiver of the loan payment dues,” he said.

The local Credit Card Holders Association said it would request the state chief justice to order a probe.

A few months ago, a bank-loan defaulter’s children were allegedly kidnapped by hired recovery agents. The police rescued them and the case is pending in court.

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