Puja shoppers flocking to New Market, beware. Take a closer look at the currency notes being handed over as ‘change’ — it could well be a fake Rs 100 or Rs 500 being palmed off.
Deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, said Ghulam Sarwar was arrested near Lighthouse cinema late on Saturday night with “several thousand fake notes”. He admitted to “cheating” shoppers and shopkeepers with the counterfeit.
“We suspect that Sarwar and his associates have been operating in the New Market area for the past fortnight,’’ said Hasan. Police detained two people from Wellesley Second Lane on Sunday evening for interrogation.
Investigations revealed that Sarwar and four of his associates station themselves in and around New Market, and its surrounding areas. They “whisper” to shoppers, offering them “change” for notes of higher denomination. “Many shoppers fall for it. The notes are printed in such a manner that shopkeepers, too, get fooled. Only later, while checking the cash, do they realise that they have been taken for a ride,’’ police said.
Mohammed Pervez of Imperial Bakery, in New Market, said such a racket had been thriving for quite a while. “We discussed this menace at a meeting of our association and then decided to approach the New Market police,’’ added Pervez.
According to a New Market shopkeeper, while checking the cash box late on Friday, he noticed that more than a dozen Rs 500 notes “looked different”. He took these to the bank where they were labelled ‘fake’. The shopkeeper said he had lost “a few thousand rupees” in a day.
Another shopkeeper, also preferring anonymity, said it was “near impossible” to check the notes being handed over by a customer. “With the Puja fever catching on, we struggle to cope with the rush of shoppers and checking each and every note would add to the chaos.”
Zulfiquar Hasan admitted that it was “difficult” for shopkeepers to spot the fakes at first glance. “We advise shoppers not to get their money ‘changed’ from touts. At the same time, we request shopkeepers and shoppers to alert the police if they find anybody moving around suspiciously in or around the market complex,’’ added Hasan.