Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed that the key aim of the demonetisation move is to stem the flow of fake Indian currency notes (FICN) and curb terror funding, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the nodal agency for FICN cases in the country, has already registered 24 cases in which 117 people have been arrested since 2009. In fact, the first case the agency handled after it was set up in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks was an FICN case.
Since then, it has filed chargesheet in 18 cases, of which three have ended in convictions and the others are at trial stage. Twenty-five people have been convicted in these three cases by various courts, while nine have been acquitted.
In these convictions, one of the most important cases has been that of a 2009 seizure of FICN of face value Rs 3.45 lakh in Maharashtra. In this, NIA was able to prove in court that FICN seized was printed at a government press in Pakistan.
The case, which saw conviction of six people, was the first to be registered under anti-terror law the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) even though the law was amended only in 2013 to include FICN offences. The NIA had produced evidence through RBI experts and forensic tests by Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL) to show that FICN features, paper quality and printing quality matches exactly to Pakistan currency and thus could only have been printed by Pakistan government press.
According to court documents, on the basis of the reports submitted by SPMCIL, chairman of the committee of experts was examined in detail for a consolidated expert opinion. The expert in his examination concluded, “…during the examination of the samples of FICN as well as the legal tender of neighbouring country, most of the pivotal parameters of the paper – like GSM of the paper, Wax Pick Quotient, poly vinyl alcohol, PH value etc… – were found matching with the legal tender of that country… GSM is an important indicator about the density of paper. Various currency papers have different GSMs…. The surface sizing is almost similar.”
The expert also observed, “Similarity in the furnish used (100% rag content), PH of the paper and surface sizing (presence of Poly Vinyl alcohol) clearly indicates that similar manufacturing process has been adopted in case of FICN and legal tender of that country [Pakistan]. The aforesaid facts clubbed with presence of See Through Registration features, quality of the printing of the FICN, presence of security thread which appears to be inserted at the time of manufacturing of the paper, use of numbering box in printing the numbering panel of the FICN etc. points out towards the neighbouring country as a source of FICN.”
Another crucial case in which NIA claims to have had success is seizure of fake currency of Rs 10 lakh face value in Murshidabad, West Bengal. The agency has charged 11 people in the case and claims to have exposed a nationwide racket where the accused, operating from jails, moved FICN from Bangladesh to various states and deposited proceeds of the crime in different bank accounts.
In its various cases, the NIA says, 41 accused are absconding, of whom five are from Pakistan. Of the rest, 21 are from India, 12 from Bangladesh, and three accused people are from Nepal. Legal requests under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) have been sent to four countries: UAE (2), Bangladesh (3), Thailand (1), and Sri Lanka (1).
While government estimates have put the total amount of FICN in circulation at face value of Rs 400 crore, probes by central agencies have found Bangladesh, Nepal, the UAE, Thailand and China to be transit routes for counterfeit currency. China is the latest addition to the traditional routes with the first case being detected by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in 2013 when a consignment of Rs 30 lakh in FICN seized in Delhi was traced to Shenzhen, China.
In 2013, the government amended UAPA, widening the scope of proceeds of terrorism to include any property intended to be used for terrorism. This brought FICN in its ambit. Since then, all cases of big FICN seizures have been largely given to the NIA and registered under UAPA.
Through its Terror Funding and Fake Currency Cell, the agency has also registered 11 cases of terror financing. In these, a total of Rs 3.66 crore proceeds meant for terror financing have been seized and 101 people charged.
While one case is related to terror funding of Babbar Khalsa International through various NGOs providing legal aide to those accused in terrorism in Punjab in the 1980s, most cases are from Jammu and Kashmir.
Most of these cases are related to funding of Hizbul Mujahideen. In one case, where the agency has filed a chargesheet against nine people, including United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin, investigators claim that Rs 13 crore was collected and distributed for carrying out terror activities in the Valley under the cover of the organisation Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust (JKART).
Another crucial case is a 2011 FIR, in which four alleged Hizbul Mujahideen operatives are in jail and two more accused are absconding. NIA has accused Syed Ali Shah Geelani of having received “terror-linked funds” from Pakistan in its chargesheet in the case.
During investigations, NIA found that between 2008 and 2011, the accused had routed over Rs 4.5 crore from Pakistan to Kashmir via Delhi. This money was reportedly distributed among “separatists and terror groups” for “anti-national activities”. A considerable amount is alleged to have found its way to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, says the chargesheet