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Why counterfeit notes look more authentic today

Last updated on: August 14, 2009 21:33 IST's Vicky Nanjappa delves into the mysteries of counterfeit currency.

The Central Bureau of Investigation revealed four days ago that the leak of a secret design had led to authentic looking fake Indian currency which is flooding the Indian market in a bid to destabilise the Indian economy.

The fake stamp paper racket too had emerged in a similar fashion when Abdul Karim Telgi had managed to secure one of the blocks from the printing press at Pune. After Telgi secured the block, the entire scam broke out and the Indian market was flooded with fake stamp papers.

Sources say that there has been a lot of difference between the fake currency that used to be printed a year ago and what is available now, following the leak of the design. Investigations have revealed that the design may have been compromised through a D-company link, which is completely in charge of circulating fake currency in India.

Although the menace of fake currency has prevailed in India for some time, over the years the security agencies and the Reserve Bank of India managed to easily pin point the fakes.

The D-Gang which is directly under the control of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba devised a new plan and ensured that this 'trade' did not halt at any cost. Intelligence Bureau dossiers had suggested that out of the Rs 1800 crore which is raised for terror operations by the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence, almost half that amount is raised through the circulation of fake currency.

It is apparent that the D-Gang had no choice but to ensure that they got their hands on the top-secret design. It appears as though the design was secured by them 6 months ago. Once this was done, brand new printing press units were set up in Quetta where the fake notes were printed and sent into India for circulation.

Security agencies who have been dealing with fake currency cases say that when compared to the previous set of fake notes and the ones that are printed now, there is a lot of difference. Infact the printing is so good that it is very hard to differentiate between the original and the fake.

Sources say that there has been a lot that terror groups have done to ensure that the notes printed by them are as good as the original. When the RBI and the security agencies realized that fake currency was becoming a huge threat to the economy, certain guidelines and findings were published. However terror groups have rectified those flaws in their fake notes and come up with almost perfect notes.

What has changed?

In the new notes, the sliver bromide thread is no longer hazy.The three watermarks, the Ashoka pillar, Gandhiji's caricature, the denomination and the RBI mark are more prominent when compared to the older versions of fake currency. In the earlier version, these watermarks were hazy.

It is tougher to spot the sprinkled dots in a fake note when held against a Ultra-Violet light due to improvisation in the printing quality and also paper that is being specially brought down from the United Kingdom. After the design was compromised, terror groups have ensured that the newer notes ensure more visibility of the super imposed digit (ie- 500 and 1000) when held horizontally. Earlier the super imposed digits were not visible when held horizontally.

Terror groups have also rectified the problem of the series prefix being smaller in size. Once the design was compromised they have been able to rectify this problem. Apart from this the alignment of the series prefix and distinctive numbers have been placed in a correct line.

The continuity of security thread and also the alignment of the register on the left hand side of the watermark have been corrected.The most important change that has been made is that of the paper which according to security agencies is making all the difference in the printing of the latest batch of notes. Earlier the paper which was being printed was shoddy and was made out of wood pulp. However now special paper is being imported by illegal means from the UK which is being used to print the notes.

The new mules

Until recently, fake currency was being pumped in through hawala transactions. Apart from this terrorists infiltrating into India too used to carry fake currency into India and get it exchanged with designated operators on a 2:1 basis. However now with security being beefed up, terror groups are now appointing women to carry out this job. Women are sent in through the borders with fake notes. There are also reports that several women coming into the country from the United Aarab Emirates are being sent in with fake notes. These groups are also relying on the labour class from the UAE coming into India. A major portion of the notes that are printed in Pakistan are now being transported first into the UAE and then sent to India.

How to tackle the menace

The law enforcing agencies, such as Customs, Immigration and Airport Security authorities are to be sensitised at the airports. Thorough scrutiny of the luggage has to be done like opening baggage, checking all the articles.

Care should be taken while checking the baggage of passengers, those coming in from the Gulf. Thorough screening of borders to prevent infiltration.

Banks should be extra cautious during rush hours and in the run up to festivals, when monetary transactions are at their highest. Some banks have told the RBI that it was difficult to monitor every note during rush hour and this was turning out to be a blessing for fake note operators to pump in fake currency into the banking system.

Image: A currency note being checked.

Photograph: Reuters

Vicky Nanjappa