Economic Terrorism

As it reels under the mounting terror menace with the fundamentalist outfits bombing cities to kill and maim innocents, India may also be faced with a grim threat of economic subversion. A spate of seizures of fake currency notes across Uttar Pradesh with the trail leading towards Nepal has confirmed the fears of what the authorities call ‘economic terror’.While Indian agencies have for long been aware of ISI’s plan to bleed India economically, having been engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the the plotters, the scale and sophistication of the operation has come as a shock to them. After the initial recovery of Rs 5 lakh from one Abid in Doomariaganj in UP, seizures have been reported from all over the state — Aligarh, Lucknow, Gonda and places neighbouring Bihar — leading the authorities to suspect that counterfeit currency adding up to Rs 40 crore may have been in circulation in Uttar Pradesh alone.But what has stung security agencies this time is not only the quantum of the seizure but the fine printing and high quality currency paper that has been used to print the currency notes and strong evidence of collusion between banks and those working at ISI’s instance.The serial numbers on the money lying in the State Bank of India chest in Doomariaganj were the same as that on the genuine notes kept there. ‘‘This explains that the gang members here would first confirm the serial number of the currency notes in the chest and then inform those printing the currency to put the same serial number on the FICN,’’ pointed out an officer of a central agency dealing in economic offences.A worried UP government on Saturday handed over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation, putting aside its grievances against the agency for the moment. While it may have acquired serious proportions, use of counterfeit money to attack India’s economy is not a new addition to the ISI inventory. Authorities have long had evidence that fake currency notes are printed at facilities set up for the purpose at Quetta in Baluchistan and Bangkok, with Aftab Batki, a known aide of ISI-protected Dawood Ibrahim, handling the operations in the Thai capital.An official panel had estimated that fake Indian currency equalling Rs 1,69,000 crore has been put in circulation as part of the design to deal a blow to the Indian economy. While serious enough a threat by itself, fake currency is also being used by the terror groups to finance their anti-India activities.The issue figured prominently in the meeting of state police chiefs and chief secretaries called here on Friday to review the security scenario in the aftermath of last month’s attacks on Ahmedabad and Bangalore.The racket was busted with the arrest of one Abid of Sidharth Nagar after Rs 5 lakh in FICN was recovered from him. Abid named Sudhakar Tripathi, a cashier at SBI’s Dumariaganj branch, as his coaccused. Sudhakar was arrested after a total of Rs 7.2 lakh was seized from his residence out of which Rs 50,000 were in FICN. On the basis of the details extracted by Sudhakar, STF requested the RBI to screen the currency notes available in the chest of the banks particularly in the districts bordering Nepal and some pockets of Western UP as well.UP STF has confirmed that one of the two accused arrested in connection with the seizure, Abid, was in regular touch with his contacts in Nepal as well as Hong Kong apart from some other countries. ‘‘But calls to these two places were much more frequent than others,’’ confirmed a source in the STF who also said that arrested militants, during their interrorgation, have frequently spoken of the use of fake currency by ISI. Another important element of the racket is the money which the two arrested accused have pocketed while pumping in fake currency. ‘‘If the gang had actually pumped in the amount which is being estimated at Rs 40 crore, then the profits incurred thereon must be traced on the ground to establish that they were major players in the racket,’’ says a senior IPS officer.The cops have so far seized fake currency from Shameem, Mehandi and Saleem in Aligarh. Another Rs 25 lakh in fake currency notes was found on Sohail of Gonda who was working with Sanjay Paswan, Vinod Kumar and Sanjay Patel of Bihar. Three persons — Momin, Anisuddin and Pramod — have been arrested in Aligarh.Sleuths from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are now focussing on the assets of the arrested accused in order to trace the route of the money earned by them during the course of the racket which is believed to have been in place for at least over 1 year in Dumariaganj itself. The known assets of the two accused are estimated to be somewhere around Rs 10 lakh.

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