NEW DELHI: Rehan Ali, a resident of Sadar Karachi in Pakistan, was caught in Dhaka immediately after the Emirates flight EK 586 landed at the Shahjalal International Airport there in February. Ali was carrying fake Indian currency notes (FICN) of face value of Rs 1 crore. The discovery was made by undercover RAW agents in Bangladesh.
On January 12, 2015, a month before his arrest, Ali had made a successful delivery trip to Dhaka using his passport (FK 1806291) that was issued in Karachi. After meeting the ringleaders in Bangladesh, he returned to Karachi on January 21. But, in February, his luck ran out when he tried to smuggle fake notes in the 500 denomination packed in 208 bundles.
Since his arrest, intelligence agencies had gathered sufficient evidence to “neutralise” his links in Bangladesh.
On April 9, 2014, Sajjad Hussain was arrested from the Dhaka airport with a bag full of fake notes with a face value of Rs 2.5 crore. Hussain had boarded the Qatar Airways flight QR 634 from Karachi. His undetected entry and boarding at the Karachi airport raised Indian intelligence agencies’ suspicion over the involvement of Pakistani government officials in the smuggling.
On a morning late in July, two cars drove out of Royal Thai Police headquarters at the Rama Road Pathum Wan heading to the Sukhumvit Road. The passengers included uniformed policemen and Thai agents who had received a tip-off from the RAW. Minutes later, three Pakistani nationals were arrested outside the Pakistani embassy at Soi Nana Nua in Bangkok. They were Sajjad Noor (passport number AJ 9995572), Noor Shahid (passport number AF 9992281) and Ali Mohammed Hafiz, who had a Candian passport (number BA 562969). All three were known operatives and working for the “company”, a multi-national network involved in smuggling fake Indian currency.
A highly profit-generating crime for individual mafias and criminal groups, infusing counterfeit currency into the Indian financial system is a long-term strategy of Pakistan’s ISI. The involvement of a wide range of players from the underworld to Pakistani state actors indicates the existence of a major sophisticated enterprise. A recent “top secret” note accessed by Express reveals this enterprise is run exclusively from Pakistan through intricate networks and modules. The note reveals that the fake notes produced in Pakistan are infused into a multi-national network by the entity codenamed “Company” or “Office”. “Company” handlers operate through Thailand, China, Bangladesh, UAE, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The intelligence notes said all the flights started from Pakistan.
“It has also created self-financing criminal networks in the Middle East, Southeast and South Asian regions and China. Pakistan’s primary objective in infusing Fake Indian Currency Notes is to finance terror, use the network for espionage purposes and to attempt economic destabilisation,” it said.
As per an estimate, Pakistan is printing and circulating Rs 10,000-crore fake Indian currency every year through the “hub and spoke” business model. The direct route into India is via the Munabao-Khokhrapar crossing and the Attari border through trade consignments.
“An indirect route via Nepal and Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka also continues with major focus being Kathmandu and Dhaka. Recent seizures indicate that FICN is also being pushed into India via China through commercial courier services,” the note added.
In 2011-13, of the 78 foreign seizures, there was the direct involvement of Pakistanis in 35 cases with 44 Pakistan nationals being arrested. In 2008-10, at least 15 out of 26 cases had the involvement of Pakistanis. In 2011-13, of the 28 seizures at foreign airports, 12 were on flights that originated directly from Pakistan, while all others were from flights transiting a staging-post country but originating in Pakistan. The intelligence note, which exposes Pakistan’s role, also pointed to the new modus operandi of “Company” to circulate fake notes in India. On the top of the list are luxury Mercedez tourist buses travelling from Turkey to Bangladesh via Iran and Pakistan. The “Company” is also using garment containers shipped from Karachi to Chittagong.
“(The Pakistan-based network) is also using containers shipped to Shenzen, China, and smaller consignments further shipped to Nepal via courier service,” the note said. It reveals the shift in ISI’s strategy. Now many field operatives carrying fake notes are said to be Turkish, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Thai nationals.
Credible intelligence gathered by agencies said Lankan and Cambodian nationals were found to be exchanging fake Indian currency at a money exchange in Phnom Penh. “The use of direct routes across the India-Pak border has declined while the use of indirect routes through ‘staging- post’ countries such as UAE, Sri lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and has risen,” it said.
People Behind It
On February 12, 2014, Muhammad Ali, a Pakistani was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. He took the Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL184 and was carrying a consignment for Rizean, a Pakistani origin drug dealer in Sri Lanka. After interrogation, he revealed the name of Pakistani operator Aslam Shera.