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23 bundles of US dollars found by ragpicker are counterfeit, finds report; FIR filed

Bengaluru: The large cache of US dollars found by a ragpicker in north Bengaluru was counterfeit, a prima facie report by the nodal bank said. The 23 bundles of foreign currency, estimated to be around $3 million (about Rs 25 crore) and in $100 denominations, wrapped in paper were found by Saleman S K near the Nagawara railway station when he was scavenging for waste materials and plastic bottles on November 1.

“The nodal HDFC Bank found in the prima facie report that the currency notes were fake and photocopied,” a senior police officer toldDH.

“They were not laced with chemicals. A detailed report will be given by an agency in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai.”

After the report was received during the day, the Hebbal police filed a First Information Report (FIR) under IPC Section 489A (counterfeiting currency notes or bank notes).

The find

After Saleman, 39, found the currency notes, along with a note on a United Nations (UN) letterhead, he was scared and remained quiet for a few days. Saleman then handed it over to Touhidul Islam alias Bappa, 33, his boss.

Bappa, a scrap dealer from West Bengal, called R Kaleemullah, a city-based activist, who informed Bengaluru police commissioner B Dayananda on November 5.

“I visited the commissioner’s office along with Saleman at around 2.30 pm,” Kaleemullah, the national executive member of Swaraj India, toldDH.

“The commissioner directed the Hebbal police to conduct the probe. The same evening, the Hebbal police held an inquest (mahajar) at the spot for nearly three hours but found nothing else.”

The abduction

On November 7, at around 1 am, five men arrived at Bappa’s shanty in Chiranjeevi Layout near the Bethel AG Church in Hebbal. Nearly 2,000 people, who are all ragpickers from West Bengal, stay in that area and give Bappa the collected scrap, Kaleemullah said.

“The five men knew Bappa’s room. Two of them entered inside and began asking him about the US currency. When Bappa told them that it was handed over to the police, they did not believe him and took him away in an Innova, along with a red suitcase, a laptop and the digital video recorder (DVR), which had the footage from the CCTV camera outside Bappa’s room,” Kaleemullah said.

The others on the premises, who came to Bappa’s aide, saw that one of the men had a handgun holstered in the back and hence, none intervened.

“They were speaking with each other in Kannada but spoke with me in Hindi,” Bappa said via a video message shared by Kaleemullah. “I know them, they are from around here. I can’t tell their names openly.”

Kaleemullah said that the armed men tortured and threatened Bappa and hit him a few times before dropping him off near the Manyata Tech Park around 9.30 am. A case was yet to be registered as Bappa has refused to file a police complaint.

(Published 09 November 2023, 17:02 IST)

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