Banknote ban cripples underworld


MUMBAI: Demonetisation has reportedly crippled underworld activities. Sources from the underworld said due to the shutting down of hawala channels, all allied criminal activities, ranging from matka, smuggling of country-made weapons, contract killings, robberies and drug racket, have been hit.

Hawala or illegal money trading is the backbone of black money and scarcity of cash, coupled with too many defunct notes, has affected this industry. A senior police officer said one should analyze the underworld activities from the fact that not a single gangster has called up any businessman demanding extortion in the last 20 days. “Moreover, there is not a single case of smuggling of country-made weapons in two weeks, a common instance in a city like Mumbai,” said an IPS officer.

Demonetisation has badly hit the drug cartel. “We have information of big-time peddlers possesing contraband, but there are no buyers…They are waiting for the market to restore so that they can encash,” said Sanjay Jha, zonal director, Narcotics Control Bureau.

Police said goons are under pressure as lawyers representing them are demanding fees in new notes. “Even courts are refusing old notes, hence criminals are unable to get cash bail,” said an advocate representing a Chhota Rajan gang member.

Most of those involved in hawala operations have temporarily shifted to ‘money changing’. “They are tying up with jewellers, bankers and businessmen and exchanging old notes with new ones for 25-40% commission,” said a crime branch officer. One of them is a relative of Chhota Shakeel who was deported from Dubai in late 2000s.
Sources said there is little stability in the market and hence, the US dollar rate has fallen to an all-time low of Rs 68, though in the illegal market, it is Rs 88. Also, the official rate of gold is around Rs 30,000, but jewellers are demanding anywhere between Rs 38,000 and 40,000.

“Recently, a hawala operator from Bora Bazaar accepted Rs 5 crore in old notes from a businessman and asked him to collect either gold worth Rs 4 crore or dirhams from a contact in Dubai. The businessman and 10 of his family members have flown to Dubai on a ‘holiday’ and will return in groups of two or three with dirhams,” said a Versova man who identified himself as Rajubhai.