After the seizure of a massive stash of Indian and foreign counterfeit currency, with a total face value of Rs 87 crore — almost all of which are play notes marked ‘Children’s Bank of India’ or ‘United States of American Children’ — investigators are probing the possibility of an elaborate network of conmen and mules, who were employed to ‘distribute’ this dummy cash in return of real money.
The baffling puzzles investigators are trying to solve don’t just end at the presence of play notes of Rs 2000 and Rs 500, with Bachchon Ka Bank, or ‘Children’s Bank of India’, written on them. The seizure also includes play notes of demonetised Rs 1000, with a total face value of Rs 31.8 crore. And above all, the involvement of a serving Army jawan, who is possibly at the helm of the racket revealed so far, said officials.
A joint operation conducted by the Southern Command Liaison Unit (SCLU) of Military Intelligence (MI) and teams from the Crime Branch of Pune City Police had found the massive stack of counterfeit currency in a bungalow in Sanjay Park locality in Vimannagar on Wednesday. Six people were arrested in connection with the case.
The investigators had zeroed in on the racketeers through a decoy deal. One of the six suspects, Shaikh Alim Gulab Khan (36), turned out to be a serving jawan currently attached to an Army establishment in Pune. Investigators now believe that he is one of the masterminds of the racket.
His accomplices Sunil Sarda (40), Ritesh Ratnaakar (34), Tuhaul Ahmed Ishaq Khan (28), Abdul Gani Khan (43) and Abdul Rehman Abdul Gani Khan (19) were also arrested. All six were produced before a court in Pune on Thursday, and have been remanded to police custody till June 15.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Bachchan Singh said, “The seized currency has been found to comprise mainly play notes. The total face value of such currency is a little over Rs 87 crore. Genuine currency, both Indian rupees and US dollars, worth Rs 2.9 lakh, which were used for covering the bundles of fake notes while making deals, have also been seized. We are trying to find out how these people, including the Army jawan, came together and what was the role played by each one of them. We cannot deny the possibility of more people being involved in this racket.”
An officer, who is part of the probe, said the suspects used to send videos and photos of the currency to potential targets who had black money. “They would make deals for money transfer through hawala transactions, or for exchanging either foreign or local currency. Play notes of this volume would certainly require an elaborate network of conmen and people acting as mules to carry, further distribute or smuggle the fake currency. Also, we have to check if there is any connection to criminal outfits, where the money earned through the racket was to be used. Another question is the presence of demonetised Rs 1000 notes. We have some leads on this front that we are working on,” said the officer.
He added, “It would be technically incorrect to term the seized notes as Fake Indian Currency Notes or FICN, which means that the notes have the same appearance as genuine ones, but the only difference is in the presence of security features.”
In the stash seized by police, the play notes of Indian currency are marked Bharatiya Bachchon Ka Bank (Children’s Bank of India) instead of Reserve Bank of India, in Devanagari font. The denomination is written as say 500 Ank or points, suggesting that the origin of the design in some sort of board game, like Monopoly.
The fake dollars are marked ‘United States of American Children’. None of these notes have serial numbers and are numbered 000000. “During questioning, the suspects told us that they procured these notes from a market area in Mumbai. Dummy notes marked like this have surfaced in the past in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and also Mumbai, especially after demonetisation,” said the officer.
In November 2017, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had seized similar notes, from the ‘Children Bank of India’, with a face value of Rs 30 lakh. “These play notes, which have been recovered many times in the past, are mainly used for one-time cheating. People who get cheated rarely report it to police because the deals are most of the time about black, unaccounted money. These notes hardly remain in circulation like FICN, which are known to have been pumped into our economy by our adversaries through the porous borders,” said a senior police official.
Meanwhile, a section of officials in both police and Army have raised questions on whether information about the probe was released too early to the public, potentially alerting others connected to the larger conspiracy, if any.
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