Updated: November 22, 2016 12:16:52 am
In the basement of a nondescript factory on the capital’s periphery, a group of migrant labourers were busy churning out brand new Rs 5 and Rs 10 coins, when Delhi Police raided the area in October. The operation, in Bawana’s industrial area, had been on for the last six months, during which thousands of fake coins had been minted.
In the next 10 days, Delhi Police busted two more fake coin manufacturing units in Delhi and Haryana. The three raids led to recovery of fake coins worth Rs 12.24 lakh.
As the move to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes — meant partly to root out fake currency — plays out in the country, these three busts highlight another aspect of the problem.
The Indian Express visited the factory in Bawana and also accessed the fake Rs 5 and Rs 10 coins. At first glance, it’s hard to tell that the coins are fake, and since people rarely take a second look at a coin, the menace has largely gone unnoticed. Upon closer inspection, though, we found some small but noticeable differences between the real and the fake coins (see box).
The first floor of the two-storey Bawana factory had air conditioners and thick curtains on the windows, along with six hydraulic machines to process the coins.
The building was located on the main road, with a large drain flowing in front. The first floor was where the labourers stayed, while the second housed a kitchen where they prepared food. The fake coins were churned out 24×7.
Under the law, producing fake currency is an offence that can invite a maximum of life imprisonment. Only the Reserve Bank of India can issue coins, which are minted at government units in Mumbai, Kolkata, Noida and Hyderabad.
The 100-square-foot building was taken on rent 11 months ago after giving a Rs 3-lakh advance. The monthly rent was Rs 19,000. The accused initially started a teflon coating business so locals wouldn’t get suspicious. But after five months, they switched to fake coins.
The machines were purchased from Mayapuri. “There were six hydraulic machines, two pressing machines and some other machines that were seized when we raided the factory and arrested a man red-handed with fake coins,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (northern range) Sanjay Singh.
In the three raids, police also recovered five packets of dyes meant to make Rs 5 coins and 12 packets to make Rs 10. Investigation revealed these were the same dyes used in RBI mints. With police unsure of how the accused got hold of them, the dyes have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Police first made a breakthrough when a team of the anti-auto theft squad arrested a 42-year-old man, Naresh Kumar, in Rohini and recovered fake coins worth Rs 40,000 from him.
“Naresh was driving a Swift Dzire and coming from Shahbad Dairy area. At least two plastic bags containing 20 packets of counterfeit coins were recovered. Each packet contained 100 Rs 10 coins. During questioning, Naresh told police that two people — Swikaar Luthra alias Sonu and Upkaar Luthra alias Raj — had been running a fake coin factory in Bawana. He named one Rajesh Kumar as the factory’s ‘manager’,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (outer district) M K Tiwari said.
Rajesh has been arrested while the Luthra brothers, believed to be prominent players in the fake coin operations in north India, are absconding.
The raid on the Bawana factory revealed that before the coins were minted, aluminum and brass sheets were cut in a separate factory nearby, and the material was then transferred to the main unit.
“They purchased raw material from Mayapuri in bulk. The coin comprised two pieces — the outer part and the central part, which was nickel-polished. After that, both pieces were pressed using a hydraulic machine and two different dyes on both sides. The fake coins were loaded into gunny bags and the consignment was sent out for distribution,” a senior police officer said.
Thirteen people from Bihar’s Madhubani district were “illegally confined” for around six months and forced to produce fake coins at the Bawana factory, police said.
Rajiv Kumar, 20, a native of Lachhmipur village, told police in his statement: “After reaching Delhi, I started sitting in Mangolpuri main chowk, but did not get any work. One day, I met Rajesh Kumar, who told me he was looking for 15 people to run a teflon manufacturing factory.”
Rajiv said he called friends and relatives from his village, and a total of 13 people were hired by Rajesh. “They offered Rs 10,000 and said we can stay inside the factory. They also offered food and told us there is a kitchen,” he told police.
Rajiv said they did not find anything suspicious initially, but after two weeks, Sonu and Raj came to the factory.
“They posed as the officials of the Reserve Bank of India and told us they had got a contract from the RBI to manufacture coins. They took away our phones and asked us to start working in two shifts, round-the-clock. They also asked us not to go outside the factory,” Rajiv, who left the city after the factory was busted, said. “They assured us they will give our salary when we go home. They cheated us.”
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