Monday, September 17, 2007

Fake currency gangs have genuine visas

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Investigations into fake currency rackets have revealed that every month, halfa-dozen groups of people leave Bangladesh for India on a month’s tourist visa to circulate counterfeit Indian currency.

“To evade suspicion from any quarter, the group usually includes a couple and all pose as members of the same family. These people travel on genuine visas and their other documents are also genuine. As a result, often they cannot be questioned thoroughly,’’ said a police officer from the I-branch unit of the Special Branch department. The prime task of the I-branch is to collect information on Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Afghan nationals.

On September 11. four persons—Annu Shaikh (25), her husband Sahebali Shaikh (32), Gulam Ali (40) and Iqbal Rehman (33)—were arrested on September 11 following which they have been remanded in police custody till September 19.

“Even that group was travelling as a family and had come to India on a tourist visa. When they were caught they said they had come to Mumbai for sight-seeing. However, after a search, we recovered fake Indian currency with a face value of Rs 1.29 lakh from them,’’ said senior inspector Prakash Singh Boparai of the Dongri police.

According to the police, earlier, illegal migrants would be given the job of circulating counterfeit notes. However, after their frequent arrests, the gangs changed the modus operandi and began sending Bangladeshis on legal visas. While the I-branch records state that there are somewhere around 100 illegal migrants
from Bangladesh in the city, the unofficial figure is in thousands. Instead of picking them up and deporting them to their country, the police take ‘haftas’ from them regularly “for not sending them back’’.

The police said the gang members first circulate fake notes in the market and then deposit the genuine ones in an Indian bank. Later that mon
ey is withdrawn through ATM card at the Indo-Bangla boarder. “In the latest case, the four persons arrested were promised a commission of 20 per cent for circulating fake currency. In addition to that, they were also provided with travelling and accommodation expenses by their mentors,’’ said an officer.

The police is now busy matching the notes with other notes seized from several other groups arrested. They suspect that they have already circulated counterfeit notes with a face value of Rs 2 to 3 lakh in the market.

The Times of India, September 17, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

4 held with fake currency in Juinagar

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Dongri police arrested four Bangladeshi nationals including a woman and seized fake Indian currency amounting to Rs 1.28 lakh from them. The accused had come to Maharashtra in August and were staying at Juinagar in Navi Mumbai.

The accused Annu Shaikh (25), her husband Sahebali Shaikh (32), Gulam Ali (40) and Iqbal Rehman (33), have been sent to police custody till September 19.

Police sources said that a new modus operandi has come to light. A group of fake distributors in India opened an account in a specific bank at Habra, a small town on the Indo-Bangaladesh border. The account was opened in the name of a carrier and he was asked to go to any Indian city. However, the account holder was not given possession of his ATM card. It was indeed kept by one of the group’s members at Habra.

“When a carrier reaches an Indian city as instructed by his mentors, he is contacted by their local agents and provided with the fake currency,’’ said a police officer.

The carrier is then given fake notes with a 20% commission. The carrier can spend this money as he wants. Once he succeeds in circulating the fake currency, he deposits the 80% (original notes) in a bank which is later withdrawn using the ATM card by his mentors in Habra. The money is converted into Taka—Bangaladeshi currency, by a money changer and sent to Ban
galadesh, the officer added.

While the police have zeroed in on this modus operandi, it is yet to establish the identity of the culprits.

The police also say that this is a unique modus operandi unlike the one used in hawala transactions. In the Dongri police case, the woman, Annu, went to the Dongri market and bought apples for Rs 50 and forwarded a Rs 1,000 note.

Later, she bought a few utensils from another shop for Rs 250 and gave yet another Rs 1,000 note. A few shopkeepers suspected the notes were fake and thus informed the police. Later, she was picked up. “Her husband who was waiting for her at the Sandhurst Road railway station was also arrested and fake notes were recovered from his possession.

The notes are in the denomination of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500. They said they were given the fake notes by a local man in Mumbai who is also wanted in the case,’’ said inspector Prakash Singh Boparai of the Dongri police station.

The Times of India, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 6, 2007

State to open e-police station

Growing incidents of cyber crime and the need to protect BPO interests spur home department to byte back at online criminals

Mateen Hafeez I TNN Mumbai: Maharashtra is finally getting its own fullfledged, cyber crime police station. City police sources said the rising number of cyber crimes as well as the need to protect the growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry has made it imperative for the state to get its own committed cyber crime-fighting unit with access to stateof-the-art technology.

The police station has been sanctioned by the home department and is expected to be functioning within three months. It will be the third such police station in the country after the ones in India’s IT meccas of Bangalore and Hyderabad. The cyber police will also tackle financial terrorism, which involves money-laundering and hawala, and the online flesh trade.

The police station, with state-wide jurisdiction, will get money from the budget set aside for modernisation plans approved by the central and state governments. The present 18-member Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) in the Mumbai police force will be absorbed by the 61-strong cyber crime police station.

Joint commissioner of police (administration), Hemant Karkare, said, “The cyber crime police station will have the authority to register FIRs and investigate cases, unlike the present CCIC.’’

“All cases under the Information Technology Act will be dealt with by the cyber police station, which will also make
arrests. However, the 2,000-square-foot police station may not have a lock-up, so suspects may be kept at other lock-ups,’’ added Karkare.

A senior police officer said the creation of such a police station could also attract more IT companies to the region. IT companies are attracted to Bangalore and Hyderabad because the cities afford protection from cyber crime, he said. “Once the police station is started, MNCs may prefer to make Mumbai their base,’’ he said. Bangalore’s cyber crime cell, in existence from 1999, was converted into a police station in September 2001.

Recently, the CCIC detected a huge case of e-crime in which an airline had to suffer losses of Rs 13.47 crore after 15,255 tickets were booked online. In another case, the CCIC arrested a Bhopal teenager, Mohammed Sharique, after he sent threatening emails posing as a member of an unknown terror outfit in the wake of the 7/11 bombings.

The CCIC also helped arrest a man who sent an email threatening to bomb the World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade.

Former IPS officer and esecurity expert, Sanjay Pandey, said there was also need to define cyber crime in central and local laws. “It’s good that the government is making an effort to tackle cyber crime, but it’s also necessary to define cyber crime in laws,’’ said Pandey. “The Information Technology Act is an IT act and not an IT crime act.’’

Crimes that involve the use of computers and do not result in direct damage or loss to life and/or property are classified as cyber crimes

Hacking into websites, webpages, e-mail accounts etc Illegally transferring bank deposits through online means Illegal borrowing or purchasing on others’ credit/debit cards Unauthorised online booking of air tickets, hotel reservations etc Online flesh trade Financial terrorism, including money laundering and hawala scams Theft of intellectual property rights Illegal data conversion from one form of computer data to another Internet time theft Virus/worm attacks Email bombing, spamming

On average, the city police deal with 35 to 40 cases a year
The cyber crime cell assists in 10 to 12 of these cases
The new police station will be expected to handle all cases One of its major tasks will be to protect Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) establishments

Set up in December 2001 as part of Mumbai police’s Crime Branch (Enforcement)

Can operate only in jurisdiction of Mumbai police
Does not have power to register cases
Cannot make arrests
Has power to only assist city police stations in cyber crime investigations
Has staff strength of 18 Is headed by an assistant commissioner of police Located in a 250-square-foot office at police headquarters, Crawford Market


Expected to be functioning in three months. Will absorb the city police’s existing cyber crime cell
Will be the third such police station in the country after the ones in Bangalore and Hyderabad
Jurisdiction will be statewide. City cases will be reported to Crime Branch, other cases to DGP
Will have authority to register FIRs and investigate all cases
Can make arrests
Staff strength will be 61

Will have 4 assistant commissioners, 4 inspectors, 17 sub-inspectors and 36 constables
Will be a full-fledged, hi-tech police station with better hardware and software than existing cyber cell. Money will come from budget for the police modernisation plan approved by the state and central governments
Could be set up on 2,000 square feet either at Worli police station or Bandra-Kurla Complex police station

The Times of India, September 6, 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why Mumbai has been a favourite with bombers

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Time and again, the country’s financial capital has been targeted by terrorists. In fact, in the last five years, Mumbai has topped India’s metros for the highest casualties in terror attacks, twice as many as the next worst-affected which is Delhi.

Since 2002, 14 blasts have killed 258 people in Mumbai while Delhi has seen seven explosions in the same period claiming 142 lives (see box). The third most vulnerable city is Hyderabad, which has been repeatedly targeted this year starting with the Mecca Masjid blast. The Mecca Masjid incident killed nine people while the two latest blasts at Lumbini Park and a sweet shop named Gokul Chat have claimed 41 lives.

Barring these three, the others are relatively safer. Bangalore has seen one firing incident at the Indian Institute of Science, in which a researcher was killed, while Kolkata and Chennai have not experienced a single terror attack in the last five years.

Experts say the reasons why Mumbai has been repeatedly targeted are as much about the prominent position the city enjoys in India’s public life as about the absence of pro-active measures to provide adequate security.

There’s a growing view — which even old-timers are beginning to concede — that the attacks expose failure to gather or act on intelligence. A former state intelligence department (SID) official revealed that soon after the 7/11 attacks in Mumbai, the SID had sent dossiers of around 400 people to the Anti-Terrorism Squad. “Most of them were SIMI members trained in Pak
istan,’’ he said. They include people like Asif Basheer Khan alias Junaid who has now been named as a planter in the 7/11 case, but was very much in police records even before; the only problem was the Mumbai police did not know about his whereabouts.

Today, more than a year has gone by since the 7/11 attack, but police have not carried out any preventive detentions of such suspects, pre
ferring instead to keep “movements and networks’’ under observation. When asked why the police do not have an effective pre-emptive strategy to close in on sympathisers and collaborators of various outfits, an officer replied, “On what charges should we book them? It may enrage a community if the charges cannot be proved in the court.’’

Clearly, the lack of political and executive will to adopt counter strategies has translated into lax surveillance and information-gathering. The Malegaon blasts of September 2006 are a case in point.
“Prime conspirator, Shabbir Masiullah, was caught much before the blasts took place but police failed to extract information from him regarding the bombings,’’ said a source.

Masiullah who owned a battery manufacturing unit allegedly acted as a conduit to receive the RDX and store it in his workshop. His workers were among the five suspected to have assembled and planted the bombs.

Curiously, he was already in custody when the blasts took place in Malegaon. He had been picked up on suspicion in August 2006 for his
SIMI links in the aftermath of the 7/11 attack and spent a month in jail before the explosions. However, the police was not able to scent the September 8 plot.

Y P Singh, ex-IPS officer, said the attacks exposed the incompetence of Mumbai’s police. “Corruption in the force, reluctance and incompetence to tackle hawala operations, a well-spun network of fundamentalists and enormous media sensitivity, these factors make Mumbai a prime target for terrorists,’’ said Singh.


Terror attacks since 2002: poor intelligence-gathering and lack of pre-emptive measures have left India’s financial capital open to repeated strikes

December 2, 2002
Ghatkopar, BEST bus Killed: 2 Injured: 49
December 6, 2002
Mumbai Central, McDonald’s Killed: None Injured: 25
Jan 27, 2003
Outside Vile Parle railway station Killed: 1 Injured: 20
March 13, 2003
Mulund train Killed: 11 Injured: 70
July 28, 2003
Second blast at on a BEST bus at Ghatkopar Killed: 4 Injured: 32
August 25, 2003
Twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar Killed: 53 Injured: 161
July 11, 2006
Seven bomb blasts in local trains Killed: 187 Injured: 817

New Delhi
February 11, 2004
Blast near IIT Killed: 1 Injured: 2
May 22, 2005
Twin blasts at Satyam and Liberty cinema halls Killed: 5 Injured: 50
Oct 29, 2005
Three blasts at Sarojini
Nagar, Paharganj and Govindpuri Killed: 67 Injured: 70
April 14, 2006
Jama Masjid blast Killed: 1 Injured: 16
February 19, 2007
Samjhauta Express which left Delhi station Killed: 68 Injured: 100

* Hyderabad
May 18, 2007
Mecca Masjid blast Killed: 9 Injured: 50
August 25, 2007
Twin blasts at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat Killed: 41 Injured: 50

* Bangalore
December 29, 2005
Unidentified man opened fire near Indian Institute of Science Killed: 1

No terror attack

* Chennai
No terror attack

The Times of India, September 4, 2007