Guwahati, March 1: The $10,000 found on slain Ulfa leader Bhaskar Hazarika was part of a “handy US currency package” of $20,000 that pro-talks Prabal Neog had converted from rupees and handed over to his then colleague in 2007, the peacenik explained to policemen today.
The police have been unable to unearth the mystery of the packet of currency found on Hazarika, second-in-command of the outfit’s 28 battalion, after he was killed in an encounter with security forces at Majuli last Thursday, along with another militant. Neog was a former commander of the same battalion.
A few days before his arrest from Tezpur in September 2007, Neog had given the amount to Hazarika.
“I exchanged rupees for dollars in Nepal in 2006 and Bhaskar was with me at that time. I had given him $20,000 (nearly Rs 1 crore) to keep in safe custody,” said Neog, who joined the pro-talks group after he was released from Dibrugarh jail last year.
He did not disclose the exact amount exchanged but said: “The dollars found on Bhaskar must be from the amount I had given him.”
Neog explained that it is important for Ulfa leaders to keep US dollars ready, since the currency is accepted in any country.
“We were always on the run and never knew to which country we would have to flee and when. So we kept US dollars ready whenever possible,” he said.
Neog said it was easy to convert Indian currency to US dollars in Nepal.
“I paid Rs 5 extra for every dollar in the transaction. The value of one US dollar at that time was Rs 54 or Rs 55,” he said.
Ulfa cadres holed up in Myanmar camps use the US currency, he added.
“Indian currency is accepted on the Indian side of the border but on the Chinese border with Myanmar, the cadres, be it Ulfa or NSCN, use US dollars,” he said.
Hazarika, it is believed, had spent half of the amount given to him by Neog, in the past two years.
When the police found the money, it was wrapped in polythene, probably to prevent being damaged by water, Jorhat superintendent of police Deepak Choudhury said.
“First we thought these were explosives kept in a polythene wrapper,” Choudhury said.
Apart from the US currency, the police also recovered Rs 1 lakh and arms and ammunition.
That led the police to believe that Hazarika was probably planning to buy arms for the outfit with the money.
Sources said Hazarika had returned from Myanmar only a month ago and was taking shelter in Karbi Anglong district.
“He had moved into Majuli through the Lakhimpur border only the night before he was killed,” a police official said.
Security forces have launched a massive operation at Majuli to flush out militants who are still suspected to be in hiding there.
Two platoons of paramilitary forces were rushed to the island after Thursday’s encounter.