Fake Cartel

Little did police know that recovery of fake currency worth Rs 3500 will help them bust a trans-LoC cartel that has serving army man its kingpin. Tasavur Mushtaq reports the chain reaction that set off after police acted swiftly         

fake-currencyAt half past five in the morning on 3rd April, 2014, the knocking on the washroom door used by inmates at Ram Munshi Bagh Police station, got shriller. The lockup was shared by three men including Munner Ahmad Manhas, a Territorial Army man, who was arrested for his role in a fake currency circulation racket operating across Kashmir. Despite repeated knocking nobody from inside the washroom responded. This prompted the inmate to call the men on duty by hitting hard the lock and bolt.

When police officials arrived and knocked again, there was no response. Finally the decision was taken to break the door and get inside. The scene was shocking. Thirty-three-year old Muneer was hanging from bathroom ceiling with a pair of socks tied together.  According to police Muneer, who had been inside the lockup for few hours, had committed suicide. For police, who has worked meticulously and busted fake currency racket in March 2013, Muneer was their big catch!  The police have ordered investigation to ascertain cause of his death.

 Chain Reaction

It all started when Police Post Nehru Park Srinagar received information through reliable sources that a group is engaged in carrying the business of fake currency.

Acting on a tip off, police party led by Dy (SP) Ram Munshi Bagh, Dr Rohit Chadgal, on March 3, 2014, laid a Naka at Badyari Chowk near Nehru Park and intercepted one, Arshad Ahmed Kaloo, from whom fake currency worth Rs 3,500 was recovered.

Arshad revealed to Police that he had deposited fake currency worth Rs 5500 in Boulevard Branch of Punjab National Bank (PNB). The modus operandi of Arshad was that he deposited total of Rs 25000 in PNB out of which eleven notes of Rs 500 were fake.

Arshad in his revelation added that he also deposited fake currency worth Rs. 60,000 at Cash Deposit Machine (CDM) of State Bank of India (SBI), Residency Road Srinagar. According to police, SBI had already lodged FIR in this case.

Besides confession of his crime, Arshad gave police a lead and Shameem Ahmad Sheikh, resident of Pattan was arrested.

Police laid a trap to nab Shameem. On police’s insistence Arshad called Shameem and convinced him to visit Srinagar. When Shameem turned up, police arrested him and seized fake currency worth Rs 3500 from his pocket.

Shameem told police that the fake currency was given to him by Jehangir Khan alias Abid, a resident of North Kashmir’s district Baramulla. Within days Jehangir was arrested and police recovered fake currency worth Rs 10,000 from his pocket.

But Jehangir proved to be just a link in a long chain of organized racket that was involved in circulating fake currency in Kashmir.

Jehangir disclosed to police that Dr Basharat Saleem, who resides in Baramulla and runs his ayurvedic clinic there, had given him fake currency.

Immediately police arrested Basharat and recovered fake currency worth Rs 19000 from his possession.

Like Jehangir and other Basharat too was just a carrier and a small link. He identified Muhammad Yousuf Elahi, a resident of old town Baramulla, from whom police seized Rs 20000. Another person Manzoor Ahmad Darzi was also arrested.

Darzi proved to be a crucial link as he disclosed name of police constable Masood ul Haq, son of Abdul Gani Peer of Khawaja Bagh, Baramulla, posted as wireless operator at railway station Baramulla as another culprit, believed to be the kingpin.

Constable Masood when questioned told police that he had five bundles each having ten packets of Rs 500 notes. Out of which he dropped a bag carrying one bundle at the shop of Yousuf Elahi and rest he distributed. Police recovered the bag with cash from the shop. According to officials there was slip on the packet which read, ‘Shaheen medicine cosmetics Sheikh Javeed Qayyum no 030-5510974/ DSSH old secretariat Muzaffarabad-JK phone no 05822444454’.

Masood told police that he also gave currency to Fareed Ahmad Dar. From Fareed police got clue of Ashiq Ahmad and Muhammad Amin, both from Central Kashmir’s district Budgam. Besides these two, Masood revealed that he gave money to Farooq Ahmad Shah of Pattan. When police managed to get Farooq to Lal Chowk, he disclosed that he has given money to Budgam Khag’s Baashir Ahmad Shah.

Bashir when put to questioning said that he has given money to Mushtaq Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Batmaloo and Showkat Ahmad Beigh of Rainawari. Police swiftly raided the shop in Batmaloo and recovered Rs 45000. Showkat Beigh named Showkat Ahmad Mir of Budgam.

After arresting 15 people, police was able to recover Rs 9, 10,500 from all the accused.

Important Breakthrough

As the events started to unfold police came to know that the case has its links in Pakistan’s Kashmir as well.

Sustained questioning of Masood and his Call Detail Record (CDR) established that he was in contact with some people from Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK). Masood confessed that in the beginning of 2013, he had contacts with some Mohiz, who he said is a resident of Armpora, Baramulla and had crossed to other side in 2002.

They first kept in touch through skype and facebook and then started calling each other on phone.

Masood told police that it was Mohiz who motivated him to circulate fake currency in Kashmir. He lured him by offering 40 per cent share for changing ‘fake’ in to ‘real’.

When Masood asked Mohiz how and from where the money will come, he was told not to worry and just wait for the call.

The wait ended in July 2013 when Masood got a call from BSNL No. 9469658585 and was asked to come to a designated place at a particular time, “mei Mohiz k aadmi hoon, falani jagah, is time pe pohanch jaana.”

Masood did what he was directed. An ‘unknown’ person handed him Rs 4 lakh and left. Masood started to do his job. In August 2013, Masood again got a call from the same BSNL number and met same ‘unknown’ person who handed him some more cash.

In February 2014, Mohiz called Masood again and told him to give earnings of Rs 3.5 lakh. Masood went to designated place and handed cash to same ‘unknown’ person and in return took Rs 10 lakh from him. So Masood was taking money from ‘unknown’ person as directed by Mohiz and distributing it among his men.

Who was ‘unknown’ person?

With Masood’s confession and details, police kept BSNL number on track. Subscriber report was asked and the SIM was registered in the name of Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, son of Abdul Wahab Mir, resident of Nelusa, Boniyar, Bijama. Srinagar Police contacted the concerned police station to know whereabouts of the SIM holder but there was no such person in the area. This twisted the case. When the call details were checked again, it was found that in a CDR of over 25 pages, besides few local calls including to Masood Ul Haq, rest of contact was with some number in PAK (Probably used by Mohiz). With utmost caution, police made calls to other local numbers in the list and they claimed that the number on track is used by a person called Muneer.

Police gave signal to concerned police station. Muneer was asked to come to Srinagar for SIM verification. He came along with his brother in law, Tariq Ahmad Khan. According to police it was Tariq who has given SIM to Muneer. The duo straightway went to office of Superintendent of Police Srinagar East, Dr Harmeet Singh.

But if SIM was registered in the name of Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, which according to police was a fake identity, how Tariq managed SIM for Muneer? When put to questioning, Tariq told that he was provided SIM by owner of STD & PCO in URI, Mudassir Ahmad. When it was confirmed from Mudassir, he told that Muhammad Ashraf Mongriyal gave him the SIM.

So Police caught hold of Ashraf, who revealed that it was Javeed Ahmad Mir of Baramulla from whom he got the SIM.

This was not enough. Simultaneously before Muneer came to Srinagar, police with the help of IMEI managed to know that in same cell phone in which 9469658585 was used, another number was used which was registered in the name of Shafkat Lateef Sheikh of Salamabad Uri. When police contacted Shafkat, he denied. Police says Shafkat was correct. This number was also used by Muneer who had talked for few hours one day to PAK.

Muneer did not initially mention of having any other SIM. Though he confessed that he has a maternal uncle, Mufaad Ahmad Mir son of Muhammad Akbar Mir, resident of Kamalkote in PAK, with whom he is in touch.

It was April 2, 2014, Muneer was motivated through sustained questioning and he opened up. The ‘unknown’ man dealing with Masood was Muneer. But the officials said that before his open confession, he told us to take him away from his brother in law Tariq.

 According to police he confessed of working with his uncle Mufaad and his associate Nasru ud din of Jabla, Uri, who had crossed to other side in 1990. Muneer was not a civilian who would face difficulty to move around the border, an army man, Muneer had free access and he used to get packets from border, not only of fake currency but also drugs and pass it over for distribution. In his confession Muneer said that he had received eight packets of fake currency worth Rs 40 lakhs.

Besides dealing with Masood, there according to his confession was direction from PAK that a person namely Shekhar, resident of Maharashtra should be given packets of drugs. Muneer passed five packets of cocaine to Shekhar in Srinagar. Shekhar is the same man who was caught in Delhi with drugs worth Rs 25 Crore. In the CDR of BSNL number, the contact number of guest house owner in Srinagar was reflected. Police when questioned the man, he told them the SIM was used by his regular customer Shekhar on the pretext that his number does not work in valley.

“In fact this time he told me that his wife is sick and he needs to go home. But to be in touch he requires SIM till he reaches Lakhanpur, so took my SIM along,” guest house owner told Police.

Muneer’s Identity, Confession And Suicide

Muneer Ahmad Manhas son of Nazir Ahmad Manhas was a Territorial Army (166 Battalion) man. Father of three children, Muneer is survived by wife, mother and younger brother.

Hailing from Saraibala, Bandi Kamalkote Uri, Muneer confessed his involvement in the racket after which he was arrested by police at 12:30 am on April 3, 2014 under case FIR No. 29/2014 U/S 489/ABC, 420 RPC.

Muneer’s brother in law Tariq requested officials to keep them separately as he felt that Muneer is not feeling comfortable. Muneer was put with two other inmates already present in the lockup where he apparently was comfortable and slept.

Role of Tariq according to police was to provide SIM to Muneer. Tariq had told police that Muneer asked him for SIM on name of somebody else giving reason that being an Army man his cell phone is being monitored. Police at this point of time rules out involvement of Tariq, “we don’t think he had an ill intension,” said investigating officer.

Before being put into lock up, Muneer told officials that when he entered the office of SP east during the day, he had thrown the SIM and three fake notes outside the gate.

Police swiftly took him to the spot and exactly everything was recovered which he claimed to be present there.

However, family members and relatives of Muneer alleged that he was murdered inside police station and demanded action. But Police officials say that Muneer was an important link to some ‘huge forces’ operating across the borders.

While talking to Kashmir Life, Dr Rohit Chadgal said that the death of Muneer has hindered the process of investigation. And he added that Muneer was important source of Police who confessed everything but still had some secrets for whom he preferred to die.

Another official privy to the case said that Muneer’s brother in law slipped out, ‘Muneer ne qurbani di hai,’ (Muneer has made sacrifice). He while explaining said that ordinary criminal would never have done it. Police believes that there were forces behind Muneer whom he was scared off.

As the bail application of accused according to police has been already rejected by court twice, police is investigation the case to know more details.

Further the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought records about the racket. The NIA has also asked the state police to furnish details about the 14 accused that have been arrested with regard to this racket.

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