India’s Fake Currency Capital May Be Hurting Most Since Demonetisation Notification

India’s Fake Currency Capital May Be Hurting Most Since Demonetisation NotificationNepalese Immigration officials count fake Indian currency notes. (DHURBA ALE/AFP/Getty Images)

Life in Kaliachak, Malda district of West Bengal, has come to a standstill following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes by the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre, reported Madhuparna Das for The Economic Times.

The fake Indian currency notes (FICN) business in this counterfeit capital of the country is astounding. According to the report, the district police has seized Rs 1.14 crore in fake currency this year. In the last couple of years, 240 people have been arrested in FICN cases. And in the last 10 months, the Border Security Force has seized FICN of Rs 1.35 crore in separate investigations.

The report also says that the Enforcement Directorate is looking into 44 FICN cases involving money-laundering to foreign countries with the purpose of funding terror activities in India.

The illegal cultivation of poppy in Kaliachak is also said to be funded by counterfeit currencies. Jayanta Pal, DIG, Malda range, told Das:

We are keeping a sharp vigil. We have arrested many in connection with FICN and poppy cultivation rackets. We are trying to control the menace.

But demonetisation seems to have set the FICN racketeers back, just like they did the Maoists who hide stashes of money in forest areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. As a case in point, a police source told Das of a recent arrest made in an FICN case in the town.

But like in any crime network, it’s the couriers who typically get caught in FICN cases. The leaders of these networks remain much harder to pin down. According to The Economic Times report, the kingpins make 50 per cent of the smuggled amount. And all the while that they stay out of trouble, they try to erase their trails in FICN and poppy cultivation cases.

“Almost 80 per cent of FICN moves to different corners of the country originate from Malda,” said a senior BSF official. The easy access to both Nepal and Bangladesh borders does not help when it comes to curbing illegal smuggling of counterfeit money.

However, now, with the demonetisation exercise underway, if there is any place that is feeling the heat, it is this, as the report indicates.