NIA Arrests 9 for ‘Buying’ 36 Cr Old Notes: Is There an RBI Link?
Over Rs 36 crore old currency seized by the National Investigation Agency from a gang of nine people in Delhi.
Over Rs 36 crore old currency seized by the National Investigation Agency from a gang of nine people in Delhi.(Photo: The Quint)

NIA Arrests 9 for ‘Buying’ 36 Cr Old Notes: Is There an RBI Link?

On Tuesday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seized over Rs 36 crore in demonetised currency from a gang of nine people in Delhi. During the investigation, it was revealed that the gang bought the old currency at 10-40 percent of its original value, from all kinds of different sources, spending between Rs 3.6 and 14.4 crore on the purchase.

According to the NIA, these nine persons were put under surveillance in the Jammu and Kashmir terror funding case, when they were intercepted talking to separatist leaders. The agency also said that the entire amount is not part of terror funding but at the same time didn’t reveal the specific amount that was used to fund terror.

Post 20 July, the Reserve Bank of India stopped accepting old notes from everyone including the NRIs and banks. The question is, why would anyone spend crores to buy notes of no value?

Are Senior RBI Officials Involved?

The agency has confirmed that names of a few bank officials did surface during the accused’s interrogation. The NIA senior officers refused to share the names of these banks and bank officials.

When trying to explain how bank officials could be involved, the agency said banks are still in possession of old currency notes, which are kept in chests. Maybe, the official suggested, bank officials were in connivance with the gang members and planned to simply add this cache of old notes to the existing chests and get them exchanged by the RBI.

But the RBI counts and records the old currency that goes into these chests, so the addition of old notes by compromised bank officials would be easily detected.

When the NIA officer was asked how bank officials could exchange old notes for new ones without the involvement of RBI officials, he evasively said, “So far, no involvement by RBI officials has been found.” He quickly added, though, that the probe was still on, and it was still possible that more people could be involved.

Certainly, in such a scenario, changing old notes to new currency would not be possible without the involvement of a senior RBI official.

We will question the bank officials named by the arrested accused to unravel the entire modus operandi. Currently, we are not ruling out anyone’s involvement. 
Senior Officer, NIA

The NIA would not have been able to seize this huge amount of demonetised currency, had the accused’s calls not been intercepted in the course of investigating the J&K terror funding case.

As of now, the NIA has gotten remand of all the nine accused until 21 November. The nine hail from Mumbai, Delhi, Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag and Amroha.

The NIA says seven of the nine had been working in close coordination – most were businessmen but some were also hawala transactors.

The accused were carrying 28 cartons filled with the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in four luxury vehicles when it was seized by the NIA. However, it is still not clear where were they heading to with these old notes.

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