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ATM spews fake cash fed by loaders

Malda, May 20: The counterfeit camp has solved its last-mile problem: just dispense the fake notes among unsuspecting bank customers through an ATM.

Two employees of a private security agency have been arrested in Malda for allegedly loading an ATM with counterfeit 500-rupee notes.

Given the number of fake-note seizures in border districts and if the counterfeiters plan to make it a modus operandi, this is a crime that should make ATM operators and law-enforcement agencies sit up. The riskiest part of a counterfeit operation is to distribute the dud notes among ordinary people without leaving behind footprints that can lead back to the source.

The Malda caper tumbled out when at least four customers contacted the Central Bank of India in Rathbari on Friday after they withdrew Rs 13,000 in fake notes from the ATM. The customers said they always checked notes before exiting ATM booths as several cases of fake currency rackets had been reported in Malda.

The bank authorities confirmed the notes were not genuine and complained to police who sealed the ATM.

Krishnakumar Sinha, 31, and Debjyoti Ghosh, 26, who were in charge of loading the ATM, were arrested yesterday evening. Police sources said Sinha was a resident of Noornagar in Baishnabnagar.

According to sources, several people had been arrested in the past from Noornagar in connection with fake-currency rackets.

The sources said it was the first time so many fake notes were reported to have come out from an ATM in a day in Malda district.

Most banks, barring SBI, use private agencies to feed ATMs that are off site or not near the bank’s branches. The agency whose guards were arrested could not be reached for comment.

All four customers claimed that they could identify the notes as soon as they held them in their hands. “We always check the notes, at least the 500-rupee notes that come out. When I touched the notes, I immediately realised they were not genuine. I showed it to the guard on duty in the ATM and called the bank. An official arrived and then I went to the bank to deposit it,” said Sibaji Sanyal, who had withdrawn Rs 3,000.

Prakash Biswas, who had come on business from Gajole, was left holding 16 fake notes with face value of Rs 8,000. Two others, Gouranga Biswas of North Dinajpur and Murshed Alam of Old Malda, got two 500-rupee fakes each. All of them had notified the guard on duty.

What to do

The RBI says that customers should go through its guidelines to identify fake notes. “In case fake notes come out of the ATMs, the guard on duty must be notified and the statement slip retained to show the time of the transaction. How else would you prove that the note has come out of the particular ATM?” an official of a bank said.

The bank will then initiate an investigation and tally the suspect note/notes with the numbers of those loaded in the ATM. If the investigation proves that the fake currencies were dispensed by the ATM, they will be replaced by the bank with genuine ones.

The manager of the bank, Swapan Kumar Mishra, said: “After initial investigations, I had gone to the ATM booth accompanied by our cashier, the police and representatives of the Malda Merchants Chamber of Commerce and two staff members of the private firm that loads the cash. We realised that of the Rs 7 lakh loaded in the machine, Rs 87,000 were fake notes.” The police seized 174 (500-rupee) notes from the machine.