Flying high and dry into hawala land

Agents are roping in new cash carriers so that they can skip security checks and fool intelligence agencies

Published: 13th January 2018 10:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th January 2018 07:10 AM   |  A+A-

Jet Airways crew member Devshi Kulshreshtha who was arrested while carrying US$ worth H3.21 crore | Express photo

NEW DELHI: After demonetisation in November 2016, hawala traders are trying to rope in new carriers so that they can skip security checks and fool intelligence agencies. The hawala trade is so huge that the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) said Jet Airways cabin crew member Devshi Kulshreshtha—who was arrested on January 8 with US$ worth Rs 3.5 crore while she was boarding a flight to Hong Kong from Delhi—was a very small player in the syndicate. The main hawala agent, Amit Malhotra, fooled 25-year-old Kulshreshtha by not revealing the exact amount which she was transferring. Malhotra has also been arrested.

This is not the only case DRI is working on. The agency is following up on three tips offs it has received since October 2017. One such lead helped DRI arrest two passengers trying to smuggling GBP and Japanese Yens worth over Rs 4 crore.

According to DRI, the forex route gained pace in the last three months as the agency caught four people and seized currency worth Rs 7.5 crore from Delhi airport. All the money was routed to tax haven destinations such as Hong Kong and Thailand. “There has been a shift in ways to take out hawala money from India. Earlier, hawala dealers used to take gold out of India, sell it and convert the cash into the required currency before handing it to a local dealer. Now, every currency conversion done in Delhi is with the connivance of local Forex dealers,” a top DRI official said.

“In the Jet Airways cabin crew member case also, Malhotra took money from more than six traders. He claims all of them work from Chandni Chowk. After getting the money, he would convert it into US$ with the help of a local money changer and would give it to Devshi Kulshreshtha,” a source in DRI said. “She had just a small role in the racket. She wasn’t aware about the source of the money. Malhotra didn’t reveal the exact amount to Kulshreshtha. He put US$ 50 notes on top and below the bundles so that he would have to pay Kulshreshtha lesser money.”

Kulshreshtha’s first consignment was of US$ 10,000 in September as Malhotra wanted to test her. In her second trip, she was given US$ 50,000, and then US$ 1,60,000, said a DRI official. She smuggled around Rs 10 crore in eight trips.

When she was arrested, Kulshreshtha had wrapped 32 bundles of US$ in her check-in baggage and 16 bundles in her hand baggage in aluminium foil and had managed to fool Delhi airport security.

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