Amid concerns over the circulation of fake currency in the economy, which lead to the demonetisation of higher denomination notes, the Mumbai police arrested 19 people — in 10 separate cases — who possessed fake Indian currency notes (FICN) worth Rs10.56 lakh this year. Many of the accused are Bangladeshi nationals.
Mumbai is one of the metros that houses several illegal Bangladeshi migrants and sees a heavy inflow of FICN, said officials.
Investigators said Bangladeshis cross over to India on foot, bearing small amounts of FICN. It is circulated in India when they use it to buy day-to-day items. “This is the best way to pump fake currency notes into the market. Nobody suspects such a move,” said a crime branch officer.
The border most notorious for FICN smuggling is the porous 172km-long international Indo-Bangla border that West Bengal’s Malda district shares with the neighbouring state. At least 80% of FICN enters the country through this border. These notes are printed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and are taken to Nepal and Bangladesh to be smuggled into India.
The smugglers have a well-oiled network that thrives in border areas. There are several means of smuggling FICN.
“One of the most infamous means of smuggling FICN is along the porous Malda border, which has wall-fencing separating the two countries. The smugglers package stacks of FICN and throw it across the wall. The stacks are collected by their aides on Indian side, most of whom are locals from the neighbouring villages and from Chhattisgarh. The money is divided into smaller stacks and distributed to carriers who fan out to metros,” said a crime branch officer.
Investigators said that as handlers are frequently arrested, smugglers now hand over smaller amounts of the counterfeit currency at a time, to avoid losses. One has to shell out Rs45,000 to acquire fake currency worth Rs1 lakh in denominations of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. This has led to these notes being banned from circulation, officials said.
The Bangladeshi migrants, who act as carriers of the counterfeit currency, make frequent trips to their native place and return possessing FICN. They cross over to Indian side by doling out anywhere between Rs2,000 to Rs5,000, said police.
The police have started applying the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to the accused since 2014, as opposed to applying only counterfeiting, under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code section 489 (B).
Earlier, counterfeiters would face a jail term of only two years. Now, they face a minimum of seven years in prison under the UAPA.