Sunday, March 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fake currency notes flood Punjab
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 8
Fake currency worth crores of rupees, printed by a number of gangs based in Doaba region and adjoining districts with the help of hi-tech equipment, including fine textile printers, and circulated in Punjab and adjoining states has started giving sleepless nights to big establishments and has resulted in harassment to the common man.

A number of big organisations have installed costly machines for detecting fake currency notes, mostly of the denomination of Rs 500, Rs 50 and currency of other countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany.

Investigation by The Tribune revealed that the widest circulation was of fake currency notes of the denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 50 because of their peculiar colours and shades, which could easily be reproduced with the help of sensitive printers, mostly the hi-tech ones used by the textile industry for designing purposes. The notes printed on such printers, having a range of 300-400 colours and shades, were of such “good quality” that sometimes it was hard to detect the fraud with the help of even detection machines. So much so, that even the security index is affixed with such accuracy that the common man will not be able to pin-point any difference between the real or fake note.

Interestingly, it was also revealed by a recently arrested kingpin of one of the fake currency gangs that most of the gangs running the racket in the state had the patronage of some middle-rung police officials and politicians who had links abroad. The gang, a number of members of which hailed from Jalandhar, was rounded up by the Ludhiana police yesterday.

Though a number of fake currency production gangs were busy pumping crores of rupees in different markets of the state and were operating with their bases in Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Moga and Ludhiana, but highly placed police officials suspected that their major hideout could be in and around Phagwara, also known as the biggest centre of hawala operations.

The modus operandi of such gangs, which according to an estimate might have pumped a whopping amount of Rs 75 crore to Rs 100 crore in Doaba markets alone, was to mix fake notes with original ones and hand these over to relatives of NRIs, most of whom prefer to send money to their relatives back in Punjab through hawala operators. The other major target of such gangs were people going abroad for the first time who prefer to exchange money through unreliable sources like jewellers.

Narrating his tale of woe, Mr Gautam Kapoor, the owner of Radisson Windsor, the Jalandhar-based only five star hotel, said he had no option but to install the fake note detection machine to counter the flow of fake notes. “These were coming in bundles, mostly of Rs 500 denomination. The worst part is that because of the sensitive nature of our business we cannot even ask our customers about the veracity of the currency they are carrying,” said Mr Kapoor.

Mr Lucky Singh, a Jalandhar-based businessman and one of the owners of Guncha-Siddhartha hotel at Dalhousie, said the increasing menace forced them to install a machine at their hotel.

Mr J. Singh, another professional, maintained that he was shocked when the Punjab State Electricity Board, returned one of the notes given by him as part of the payment against his electricity bill. Showing the Rs 500 note, he said the note was crossed by the bank authorities after if found it to be a fake one.

Similarly, a Punjabi singer, while requesting anonymity, maintained that he had to face a lot of embarrassment when one of his 50-dollar notes was discarded by a store during his recent visit to the USA. He said he had taken the note from a non-recognised money changer.

When contacted, Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, Jalandhar, who was credited with busting a number of fake currency notes during his earlier postings at Moga and Gurdaspur, admitted that a number of gangs were in the business of fake currency production. 

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