Bhubaneswar: With a 50-day completion for the ban imposed by the Government of India on legal tender of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes, there was a scarcity of cash in the market and people were making beelines at banks to exchange the old notes with the new ones launched after an elapse of considerable period following the demonetisation decision on November 8.
At the same time, eyebrows were raised when huge amount of cash including new currency notes were seized across the country from people across different sections after the demonetisation.
Out of curiosity the Odisha TV’s investigation team undertook sting operations to understand how the new currency notes are being exchanged with the old ones through middlemen and the modus operandi of the group. Followings are the excerpt of the conversation between the middlemen and OTV team.
Agent 1: How much money you want to exchange?
OTV: Rs 50,000.
Agent 1: Why you are wasting my time? Give the money to anyone else or deposit in a bank? Why you have called me here?
OTV: How much you can exchange?
Agent 1: I can exchange Rs 30 lakh or 40 lakh old notes, if you wish.
OTV: Can you take 50% and give 50% to me for an exchange of Rs 50,000 old notes?
Agent 1: It’s wastage of time considering the proportion of amount we will get.
OTV: Where you will exchange the money?
Agent 1: You want that information as well while exchanging Rs 50,000 old notes. You want to exchange the old notes and I will get my commission, thereby the matter is over.
OTV: It would have been better had I know where you will exchange the amount?
Agent 1: Our acquaintance is the most important thing. Whenever you want to contact me you can do so and meet me.
OTV: In how many days you can exchange the money?
Agent 1: Within maximum 7 days.
OTV: In bank?
Agent 1: Obviously. Such big amount can be exchanged in a bank only. In a shop an exchange of this amount is not possible.
OTV: Where you will do the exchange?
Agent 1: If you have confidence in me, make the deal. It’s your wish. Otherwise you can go elsewhere. We have other possible waiting to make a deal. We just want our percentage. In your case also, we will take the commission. Many big shots are involved in the exchange racket as it is humanely impossible for a single person. The exchange will be done secretly. If you want to make a deal, meet me in the evening.
The OTV’s investigation team visited another broker as well to get a better clarity on the nexus. Here is the excerpt of the conversation –
OTV: How much cash you can exchange?
Agent 2: Rs 20-25,000
OTV: where you are exchanging?
Agent 2: In banks only we are exchanging the old notes. We have not opened a company or set up machines to print money at home.
OTV: Can you take me to the place where the exchange is being done?
Agent 2: As you will get the exchanged money in your bank account, what is the need for you to go the place where exchange is being done? Am I asking how you got so much money? You will get the exchanged amount and I will have my 20% commission. Earlier, many people have done exchanges. If you have made up your mind, make a deal or go elsewhere.
The OTV team got inkling on functioning of currency notes exchange rackets when more than Rs 1 crore cash including new notes were seized from a liquor businessman in Sambalpur. Besides, Rs 31 lakh was seized in New Delhi and the case was transferred to the Income Tax department of Odisha region to probe.
Some locals of Muniguda of Rayagada district and Paleru in Andhra Pradesh brought to the notice of the OTV team about working of note exchange rackets in the area alleged money are being transferred to their bank accounts and signature is being taken on stamp paper from them saying that 20% commission will be given to the accountholder after March when the condition post demonetisation will stabilise.
The investigation team of the news channel later came to know the racket is being operated from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
The middlemen to whom the OTV talked to were third and fourth layers of agent. Many influential persons are involved in the racket at different places and managing the illegal exchange of notes from the top.