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Smuggling fake notes? Been there, done that

An established network has seen counterfeiting continue post-demonetisation

When law enforcement agencies arrested Manglu Sheikh and two others in West Bengal’s Malda district on July 20 this year for allegedly smuggling fake Indian currency notes (FICN) worth ₹7 lakh, they were in for a surprise — almost four years ago, before demonetisation, Manglu and his men had been arrested for the same crime.

Manglu, a resident of Kaliachak in Malda, had been arrested in the same district in 2014 for smuggling FICN with a face value of ₹2 lakh. Imprisoned for 22 months, he was freed after completing his term.

Further enquiries revealed that three other members of his family had also been charged for smuggling FICN.

And Manglu’s family is just one among several such cases where more than one member of the family in the Kaliachak region bordering Bangladesh is accused of smuggling FICN.

For the government agencies working to prevent the smuggling of FICN, Kaliachak and the adjoining border region were a challenge before demonetisation, and remain a challenge two years hence.

After November 8, 2016, there was a lull in smuggling and many officials believed that the issue was sorted out. However, by mid-January 2017, samples of counterfeit ₹2,000 notes started trickling into the market. The first major seizure took place on February 15, 2017, when a bundle of ₹2,000 notes with a face value of ₹2 lakh was found on the Indian side at Churiantpur in Malda, allegedly thrown over the barbed wire border fence.

Since then, FICN of face value of ₹1.75 crore has been seized from the region, and 66 persons have been arrested. Of the fake currency seized, 90% consists of the ₹2,000 denomination. Most of the seizures fall under four police stations areas — Kaliachak and Baishnabnagar in Malda and Shamsherganj and Farraka in Murshidabad district.

In the past two years, the officials have found that counterfeiters have used different kinds of paper, including Bangladeshi stamp paper and news print, for the FICN. What is more alarming is that the criminals have successfully replicated 10 of the 17 features in the ₹2,000 notes. Officials warn that once those involved in the racket get hold of the security paper used to print genuine notes, the counterfeits will be hard to distinguish.

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