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Fake currency network intact

But forensic reports say notes are of poor quality, security features not copied

Two years after demonetisation, the fake currency notes seized so far are not of a high quality, a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found.

Another Home Ministry official said the network of same fake currency operators was still intact as two years ago, that pushed fake notes from the Bangladesh border. But there was not much evidence to link it to Pakistan yet. A reason cited by the government for scrapping ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes in 2016 was to wipe out fake notes.

India had accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of printing high-quality fake notes and channelling it into India. Agencies suspected that certain security features of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes were compromised as the supplier of raw currency notes, ink and silver thread was same for India and Pakistan.

“The fake notes seized recently are of poor quality, and look like photocopies in most cases. It seems Pakistan has not been able to copy the security features yet. The carriers and the receivers have links to Bangladesh, not Pakistan. Most arrests were made from Malda in West Bengal, and some cases registered in Kerala, Karnataka and Gujarat. Pakistan is using Bangladesh as a transit to push in the fake notes,” said an NIA official.

Intelligence sharing

The NIA and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the anti-crime and anti-terror unit of Bangladesh, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2015, to share intelligence on fake notes and other terrorist modules in real time.

The NIA registered at least 13 cases related to the seizure of fake currency in the past two years, but could not invoke the provisions under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA) because of the inferior quality of the fakes seized. By norms, the UAPA can be invoked against the accused only if the notes are of high quality. In all the cases, the forensic report ruled out that the notes were of a fine quality and that any of the security features had been compromised.

According to an NIA official, the agency passed on information to the local police in many cases, which led to the arrests. The police book the accused under Sections 489B and 489C (possession of forged or counterfeit currency notes, punishable by life imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is then taken over by the NIA.

“Since Section 498B and Section 489C of the IPC are scheduled offences, the NIA can investigate such cases,” the official said.

High face value

Though there was no definite account of the number of fake notes in circulation with the government when demonetisation was announced, a study done by the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, in 2015, had said that at any given point of time, fake notes of ₹400 crore face value were in circulation.

The official said the impact of fake notes on the economy could only be computed if it entered the banking system. In the two years before demonetisation was announced, the NIA registered 25 cases of fake currency notes and 26 persons were convicted in three cases.

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