Iqbal Kana, 50, a Lahore-based garments and cosmetics trader with a perfectly legit existence in Pakistan, actually has another face — dark and sinister. Kana is the top boss of the fake Indian currency notes racket.
Originally from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, it’s not clear when he left the country. But wanted in several cases by the CBI, Delhi Police and other state police forces, Kana started operating from Pakistan in 1993.
Security agencies say his name has been popping up often during interrogations of several terrorists. Most important among them is Abdul Karim ‘Tunda’, Lashkar bomb-maker and one of the ring leaders of the fake currency racket who was arrested from the India-Nepal border on August 15. He confessed that the kingpin of the racket was Iqbal Kana.
A top police official said on condition of anonymity: “Tunda has revealed that Kana is being run by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and is sourcing his supplies from currency forging centres in Peshawar and Lahore.” He said without top-level support, it’s not possible to produce such high-quality counterfeit notes, which often fool experts.
Tunda, 70, has also sung on Kana’s intricate network of middlemen, carriers and distributors notes in India. The motive: It’ll fuel inflation by injecting more money into the system, affecting the acceptability of the Indian rupee, besides funding terror activities in India.
Kana’s network uses mostly three routes for currency smuggling from Pakistan: The Punjab border, the India-Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. However, the latest consignment of counterfeit notes was found to have been sent from mainland China.
Kana’s role first came into notice in June 2011 when a bus carrying fake notes of a face value of `1.54 crore was seized in Delhi. The notes were supposed to be distributed in western Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
Interestingly, the bus driver, a Turkish national, confessed that he was a member of the international currency gang headed by Kana.
In January 2012, Kana’s name figured again in another fake currency bust when his operatives tried to smuggle into Delhi `2.2-crore fake notes hidden in rolls of imported garments. The official said, “Kana used his garment industry contacts for this operation.”
Again on June 21-22 this year, Kana sent in `29.6 lakh in fake notes —hidden in school bags — through a FedEx courier parcel from a garment company in Shenzhen in China’s Guangdong province. The Chinese company manufactures school bags.
What is also significant is the emergence of Delhi as an important circulation point. Economic intelligence agencies say it’s easier to push in fake notes in Delhi because of the huge number of cash transactions that take place in the Capital every day.
Of the fake notes with a face value of nearly `59 crore seized in 2012 from across the country, Delhi alone accounts for `7 crore. But officials admit that the seizure figures are not comparable to the actual amount of counterfeit money in circulation. Also, many seizures are not even reported.