Delhi copes with knotty racket

Delhi copes with knotty racket

A 55-year-old woman was arrested at Indira Gandhi International Airport last week for smuggling high-quality fake Indian currency notes with a face value of Rs 5 lakh by concealing them in shin pads.

It once again highlighted how smugglers are adopting innovative methods to pump counterfeit currency into the national capital and keeping Delhi Police on their toes.
The sudden surge in fake notes circulation has also become a major cause of concern for the force, as intelligence believes terrorist and criminal networks use the money to destabilise the country’s economy, and finance their activities in the country as well.

According to Delhi Police figures, fake notes with a face value of Rs 17 crore were seized in the capital last year — almost 50 times more than notes worth Rs 28 lakh each recovered in 2011 and 2010. Smugglers seem to have become even more active with counterfeit notes having face value of Rs 32 lakh being recovered in January.

It has forced Delhi Police to set up a separate cell at Parliament Street police station, where individuals and banks can submit fake currency they receive through different means. Banks across Delhi have also been provided with strict orders to check notes being deposited, while security personnel at airports have been told to conduct stern scan of passengers and their luggage.

Banks, however, tend to be of little help as they often accumulate fake notes brought to them and approach police only once in six months. “Seized notes are usually very similar in appearance and texture with genuine Indian currency. Fine quality texture paper is used and certain security features are inserted, which are not easily detectable. We are sharing inputs with other security agencies to keep tabs on smuggling to bust all such networks,” says S N Shrivastava, special commissioner of police (special cell).

Investigation has revealed that a majority of the notes seized are pumped in from neighbouring countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — by land and water routes. Shrivastava confirms that Pakistan has been identified as the main source and producer of the notes.

“The machines used to make the currency notes are only available with sovereign states, and a large chunk of fake notes seized are of high quality. It is impossible for any individual or a gang to produce notes having similar security features,” Shrivastava adds.

Interrogation of several couriers arrested in the recent past has revealed that cross-border smugglers bring fake notes from places where there is no fencing.

Consignments are also thrown over the fence and exchanged at local markets near India-Pakistan border.

“We found that 80 per cent of the smuggled fake notes are sent to gangs based in Uttar Pradesh. These gangs work on a commission basis and circulate the money across the capital,” says Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, deputy commissioner of police (special cell).

Fake notes are also taken to Bangladesh and Nepal, and smuggled through West Bengal’s Malda and Murshidabad districts. Rackets also operate from parts of Shillong and Assam. But most people who end up circulating the notes are unaware of the kingpins.

“These are people in need for money. Some are small-time smugglers of electronics goods, while others work at shops owned by racketeers,” Yadav adds.

Circulation of fake notes has also become a major cause of worry as counterfeit money is being recovered from several terrorists infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, Delhi Police had arrested an Indian Mujahideen operative in November 2011 with fake notes of the face value of Rs 1.93 lakh. In December 2011, two persons suspected to be militants of Babbar Khalsa International were also held for possessing fake notes worth Rs 1 lakh.

Delhi Police have further identified Mohammad Iqbal alias Kana as one of the masterminds trying to pump counterfeit currency notes from Pakistan. Kana, who hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Prabudh Nagar district, is said to be hiding in Pakistan and running a network of fake Indian currency notes at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

A reward of Rs 2 lakh was also announced over information leading to Kana’s arrest after a consignment with a face value of over Rs 6 crore was seized in January 2011 — one of the biggest fake currency rackets unearthed in the country. Kana, also wanted in several cases by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and other investigative agencies, was named as the main suspect behind the consignment.

Two accused had told police that they had gone to Pakistan to meet Kana for procuring the consignment. The notes, concealed in 33 cloth bundles and loaded in two tempos, were seized from a godown at west Delhi’s Dabri.

In cardboard sheets

They were wrapped with cardboard sheets, which had names of five companies — Safari Textiles Mills, Four Star Sidiki Processing Mill, Maharani Collection, Kohinoor Suiting and Usmaan Naiem Fabrics — based in Faizalabad in Pakistan. The special cell of Delhi Police believes the notes were brought to India from Pakistan under the guise of embroidery articles.

Operators of the fake currency notes racket, however, seem to have made a shift from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh borders due to high scrutiny, and have started using South East Asian countries.

“Security personnel at IGI Airport conduct strict scan of people coming from Pakistan, Bangladesh, UAE and Nepal. But until recently those arriving from South East Asian countries were never suspected,” says an officer at IGI Airport police station.

Arrested in IGI Airport

On February 16, 55-year-old Harjeet Kaur was arrested at Terminal 3 of IGI Airport after she arrived from Bangkok by a Thai Airways flight. Harjeet was intercepted at the exit gate of the customs area when she opted for clearance through green channel after depositing her custom declaration slip. Two bundles of fake notes of Rs 1,000 denomination and six bundles of Rs 500 notes with a total face value of Rs 4.93 lakh were recovered.

An Interpol report states that last year alone, 13 countries reported seizure of counterfeit Indian currency notes. Couriers from Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam were also apprehended.

Delhi Police have found that counterfeit Rs 5 coins are being circulated in the capital after 30,000 fake coins with a face value of Rs 1.50 lakh were recovered from three persons near Sarai Kale Khan Inter-State Bus Terminal in November 2012.

Even coins counterfeited

The counterfeit coins were meant to be supplied to shopkeepers in Delhi and NCR region, who need small coins in abundance. According to SBS Tyagi, deputy commissioner of police (crime and railways), the coins were minted in Nepal.

“Interrogation of the accused revealed that they were part of a major international gang involved in minting counterfeit Indian coins of Rs 5 denomination in Nepal and supplying it in India,” Tyagi said. Police say a few Indian Railway employees and custom officers at the India-Nepal border were helping the accused in the trade.

According to Shrivastava, the nuisance can’t be controlled until the source of the counterfeit notes are busted and their producer arrested.

“We have been working hard for several years, but most of the culprits are hiding abroad due to which we are unable to take strong action. Authorised intelligence and investigative officers are working on the matter, and major breakthroughs are expected shortly,” Shrivastava says.

The menace has also forced the government to approve an amendment in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, under which a person or group of individuals and an association who are involved in counterfeit currency circulation can be booked, if it is tantamount to a threat to the economic stability of the country.

In December 2012, a National Investigation Agency counsel had also submitted before the Supreme Court that smuggling and circulation of fake notes threaten economic security, sovereignty and integrity of India and is tantamount to a “terror act”. Perpetrators of such acts should be punished severely.

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