150 bags of cash, gold and diamond seized
Speculations rife on terror funding
In a joint operation on Monday, Income-Tax (I-T) and National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths seized 150 bags containing cash, besides diamond and gold nuggets worth hundreds of crores, from four trucks stationed outside the Bombay Central Railway Station.
The huge amount of cash found in 102 bags and the NIA’s involvement in the operation have sparked off speculations on terror funding and election funds for political parties.
An I-T officer said: “It is really strange to see this amount of cash floating around in trucks awaiting transfer...even from the hawala angle...we see this kind of clandestine transport of hard cash only when elections are just round the corner.”
The consignment was headed for different cities in Gujarat. Several “angadiyas (traditional couriers),” who have been ferrying valuables for nearly a century between trading cities, reached the I-T office in south Mumbai to stake claim on various parcels soon after the news broke.
However, the couriers have disowned the cash, stating that they mostly ferry precious stones, jewellery, gold and silver.
†They also claimed to have proofs and receipts for the packets seized by the authorities.
Some TV channels pegged the quantum of cash to Rs 200 crore, while others claimed that the figure was around Rs 2,500 crore. However, I-T Director-General Swantra Kumar quashed the rumours and told mediapersons that valuation of precious stones and gold and counting of the currencies were underway. “A clear picture would emerge only in a couple of days,” he said.
He admitted that a majority of the packets in the bags had both sender and recipient’s addresses.
Nearly 50 officers have been deputed for verification.
Giving details of the seizure, Kumar said the operation was based on a tip-off. Officials were keeping a watch on the parking bay outside the Mumbai Central Railway station. “Four trucks were parked and the consignments were to be transported through the Ahmedabad-bound Gujarat Mail.
“Apart from drivers and cleaners, around 40 people, a majority of them couriers, are being questioned. However, we are not charging any of them. But it is surprising that this amount cash was present in the vehicles. Most of the time when such surreptitious transfer of cash is discovered it usually turns out to be unaccounted, which, by its very nature, is an illegal transaction and money transfer.”
Kumar refused to get drawn into any speculation regarding hawala transfer, election funds or terror angle.† “Whatever investigations and questioning reveals, we will share with the NIA,” he said.