Economic crime is traditionally considered less harmful, as it does not cause any bodily injury. But in its reach and spread, it is something, which affects all States, in bigger or smaller degrees. On the face of it, seizures of thousands and even lakhs of rupees of fake currency notes may appear to be a small crime, but in reality, it is one of the worst forms of economic terrorism.
Counterfeit currency notes have become one of Pakistan’s newest and hottest, but most modern weapons against India. Intelligence agencies feel that the ISI has been pumping in huge consignments of counterfeit Indian notes.
These are said to be printed in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Our agencies rightly reason that only the government security presses of Pakistan have the kind of wherewithal and technology to produce the fake currency, seized in India. The locally made counterfeits are generally crudely printed notes or generated with the help of
a computer scanner. But the ones seized from the smugglers coming from Pakistan, as well as Nepal, have almost the genuine lookalike paper and printing.
A run-of-the-mill forger cannot produce such notes. Fake money is the terrorist’s new-fanged weapon. The idea behind this exercise is to palm it off to the locals and cause havoc in India at no or minimal cost. The fake currency rackets thrive not only in big cities, but also in smaller towns. Gorakhpur, Bijnaur and Rampur apart from Lucknow and many other places have reported cases of fake currency.
There is hardly a state, where fake currency has not been detected, whether it is in Champaran (Bihar), in RS Pura, Rajouri, Baramullah and Srinagar (J&K), Amritsar, Ferozpore and Ropar (Punjab), Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), Moreh and Imphal (Manipur), Bongaigaon, Tura, Guwahati and Sibsagar (Assam), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), or Kolkata (West Bengal).
In Mumbai, which has a strong underworld connection, with close links to Pakistan-based dons, nearly 40 to 50 cases of fake currency are registered every year there. The seizures of fake currency there had even reached Rs 50 lakh sometimes back.
But what has been detected is only the tip of the iceberg. The fake notes seized even have the security wire or “guide wire” that’s the most common reality-check. No wonder, they have managed to find their way into the nationalised banks.
In Uttar Pradesh, the state police got a shock when they received a complaint from some CRPF jawans, in 2008, that they had been given fake notes by a branch of the State Bank of India in Lucknow. The counterfeits were so sophisticated, that they had duped even the bank staff.
In Bihar, a sub-divisional officer (SDO) was also a victim of fake currency, sometimes back. Khurshid Anwar, SDO of Sikrahna, collected his salary from a branch of the SBI in East Champaran district. He counted the notes, mostly of Rs 500 and Rs 100 denominations. When he reached home, his office informed him of some cases of fake currency notes in the town. He immediately took out his own wad of notes and scrutinised them. He found two fakes and all this came from a bank.
In the latest haul and encounter, the Border Security Force, on as late as January 29, 2009, seized 13 kg of heroin worth Rs 65 crore in the international market, Rs 33 lakh in fake Indian currency in the denominations of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 and seven Chinese pistols along with 14 magazine on the Punjab border with Pakistan. It is a clear proof, if proofs were needed, the source of fake Indian currency and other mischief directed at India.
The counterfeit currency or fake rupees, are printed so well by using the same paper and the same ink, as for the original notes, that it would dupe anybody. Incidentally, the use of fake currency has been as a means of warfare has been put into practice by various nations.
Britain did this during the American War of Independence in 1770s to reduce the value of the
continental dollar. The United States did it during the Civil War against the rebellious southern states. Now counterfeit currency has become an ingredient of the terror agenda. During World War II, the Nazis attempted to do a similar thing to the Allies with Operation Bernhard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bernhard). The Nazis took Jewish artists, and forced them to forge British pounds and American dollars. The quality of the counterfeiting was so good that it was almost impossible to distinguish between the real and fake bills.
The Germans could not put their plan into action, and were forced to dump the counterfeit bills into a lake as by the time the fakes were ready, they had lost the World War II. The counterfeit currency notes of millions of pounds were recovered only in the 1950s. Today the finest counterfeit bank notes are claimed to be US dollar produced in North Korea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ North_Korea). The fake North Korean copies are called super dollars because of their high quality. Bulgaria and Colombia are also significant sources of counterfeit currency. Even in the UK, police recovered 2.2 million pounds worth of fake notes in 2004.
As home computers, have become just as common as telephones in America, US officials have been stretched by the counterfeiters. There, one out of three homes had an ink jet or other high-quality printer in 2002. In fiscal 2002, which ended September 30, 39 per cent of the fake currency in circulation in the USA was made, using a computer, up from 8 per cent in 1992. In Europe 13 per cent of all counterfeit notes seized during police raids were euro notes in 2004.
A question that comes uppermost in the minds of people is: What is the need to check counterfeit currency? The answer is the counterfeit money in circulation leads to the reduction in the value of real money. It also leads to increase in prices, which is nothing, but inflation, caused due to more money, getting circulated in the economy. A reputation of fake currency diminishes the acceptability, confidence and credibility of a country, in the comity of nations. Industry and business not run, or are paid for in counterfeits, which in turn leads to increase in prices.
The only way, we in India, can tackle this problem is to exercise vigilance, not only by the government, but also by every citizen, Counterfeit detecting machine is available for a few thousands rupees. Establishments having a turnover of large amount of money should invest in the same, train their staff in using it, so that their organisations do not become victims of it. Awareness of the dangers of the fakes should also be tackled by starting a campaign by the government, as it is doing for all and sundry kinds of things. The government should give the highest priority in tackling the counterfeit currency problems. But this cannot be solved unless the recipients of the fake currency come forward to expose the magnitude of the problem, as well as expose people
involved in this racket.
The government on its part should encourage fair and fearless reporting of the fake currency. The present tendency is to treat the man making such a report a suspect. This leads to an inclination, wherein people prefer to suffer a loss rather than facing the hassle of registering a case, clearing themselves and then going to the court to give evidence.
The following tips can help. Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspected note with a genuine note of the same denomination and series. Pay attention, to the quality of printing and paper characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities. The genuine portrait appears lifelike. It stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details are merged into the background, which are often too dark or mottled. Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink colour as the national symbol. The numbers at the fakes may not be uniformly spaced or aligned. Examine meticulously and exhaustively the money you receive. Note down from whom and where you receive any suspected note and promptly inform the law-enforcement agencies about it. The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor. It certainly does not apply to fake or counterfeit currency. Unless each citizens becomes a vigilant soldier and gives up the attitude sab chalta hai, we cannot solve this knotty problem.
By Joginder Singh
The writer is former Director, CBI.