Video cameras and IT officers in tow, police teams are manning nakabandis across Mumbai to apprehend the growing number of vehicles sneaking in fake currency notes into the city to fund campaigns and bribe poor voters. Cops fear the smugglers may have shifted base
City crime branch officers are on the prowl, as are Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) officials. Even plain-clothed officers of the Central Intelligence Unit (CIU) are on their toes as they patrol the streets of Mumbai, in search of a common prey — gangs who are quietly flooding the city with fake currency notes, mostly to help politicians bribe poor voters. But it is this same fake currency that is often used to fund terrorist activities.
The policemen are accompanied by a videographer to record the work. At many check points, an income tax officer is also present to check suspicious vehicles, especially ones which display stickers of political parties. Pic/Sameer Markande
Success has been sporadic so far. Last week, the ATS squad arrested Bakthar Hudda, Mohammad Shaikh and Mohammad Jamma from just outside Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli. The three men were trying to pass off fake currency notes to
Last month, CIU officials had arrested a Delhi-based estate agent, Dineshsingh Megh Singh after three other men arrested for possession of fake currency notes, revealed that Singh had supplied them Rs 10.85 lakh in cash. The trio was told to circulate the currency to poor slum dwellers in Dadar and Andheri.
Police officials checking a car for fake currency notes in Thane, a few days before elections. Pic/Sameer Markande
This is just the tip of the iceberg. With elections just round the corner, the entire police force is on high alert to sniff out fake currencies that flood the market — money (fake in many cases) that is used to bribe and ensure votes.
According to the police there have been recent guidelines from the election commission to keep a strict vigil on the money that is being circulated to buy votes. Each police station has been asked to deploy extra nakabandis, with a videographer present at every nakabandi, to record the work. In many of these check points, the cops have company in the form of an income tax officer to check all suspicious vehicles, especially ones which display stickers of political parties.
“We have been conducting nakabandis at least twice a day. We change the spots so that we catch the culprits off guard. The income tax officer, who accompanies us, verifies the cash in transit in case we come across any such cases,” said senior police inspector Suhas Garud from Wadala Truck Terminal.
According to the cops, not all the cash in transit is illegitimate. On several occasions police teams intercept cash and valuables of angadias and banks too. Once the driver provides necessary proof, a vehicle is allowed to pass. But occupants of vehicles arousing even the slightest suspicion, are being interrogated in detail.
Not a new phenomenon
Sources in the crime branch say duplicate currencies have been a nightmare for the local economy even since the 1970s. Most of the counterfeit cash is printed in presses that are illegal.
Some in fact, say cops, come from presses located in Pakistan. The money is routed into the country through hawala transactions. “A major chunk is used to fund terror activities,” said a crime branch officer earlier attached with Maharastra’s Anti Terrorism Squad.
The National Investigation Agency has recently convicted six persons for their role in a fake currency network that funded terror activities. Crime Branch sources said Siliguri in West Bengal is a hub for printing fake Indian currency.
In May this year, the APMC police arrested two men and a woman for possessing counterfeit currency notes valued at Rs 2.64 lakhs. The accused revealed that they had brought the currency from Jharkhand. They were not aware of the person who had handed over the cash to them.
Sources in the Mumbai police force claim in 2009, Pakistani intelligence wing men stole a currency-making template from India in order to give more authenticity to their fake currency. The investigators were certain that the theft was the doing of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate.
“The cost for making a fake note is around Rs 18, so you would not see too many fake Rs 50 and Rs 100 notes. It is always R500 and Rs 1,000 denomination notes,” said police inspector Sunil Mane from crime branch Unit 8.
According to police officers, once the fake currencies reach Mumbai, they are mixed with original ones. Sources say with the city cops tightening the screws and setting up nakabandis by the dozen, the gangs have set up base in Mumbra, Panvel, Nasik, Dhulia, Nagpur and Pune.