The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has seized three “high quality” fake Rs 2,000 banknotes from a fugitive from West Bengal, who is accused of operating a counterfeit Indian money racket.
The anti-terrorism agency arrested Umar Faruq, who is from Malda in West Bengal, on Tuesday when he was on his way to deliver samples of the note to a fellow smuggler of fake currency. He was on the run since he was implicated for smuggling fake currency notes two years ago.
This is first such seizure of fake notes by the central agency. Before Tuesday’s recovery by the NIA, the Border Security Force (BSF) had also seized 40 fake currency notes in the denomination of Rs 2,000 on February 8 in Malda district, which is on India-Bangladesh border. The case is being probed by state police.
NIA officials said the seized notes looked identical to the original. A detailed forensic analysis is on to check how many security features of the genuine currency have been found to be replicated in them, they added.
The NIA has been mandated by the government to look into only those cases where recovered Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) are of high quality and involvement of organised gangs from across the border is suspected.
Tuesday’s recovery triggered concerns that forgers are getting better at replicating security features of the new high-value notes, introduced after the Centre demonetised Rs 500 and 1,000 bills in November last year to fight corruption, counterfeiting and terrorist funding.
“There have been around half-a-dozen cases in which fake Rs 2,000 notes were recovered after the demonetisation exercise. But they were of inferior quality, mostly printouts of scanned copies of the note. But the recovery on Tuesday by our investigators appear to be of high quality. That’s why we have sought their detailed forensic examination,” a senior NIA official said.
Counterfeiting has been reportedly rampant with rackets suspected to be based in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan pushing huge sums of fake money into the Indian economy. It was one of the reasons the government gave when it recalled the two high-value notes, draining out 86% of the cash in circulation.
At the time of introducing the new bills of Rs 2000, the Reserve Bank of India listed out their security features that included a latent image with the denominational numeral 2,000, which can be seen when it is held at a 45 degree angle at the eye level, a colour-shifting windowed security thread with the inscription ‘भारत’, RBI and 2,000 and a see-through register with the denominational numeral 2,000 which can be seen when the note is held up to light.
“We want to see how far the forgers, most likely sitting in Pakistan, have managed to replicate these features of new bills,” said the NIA official.