Millennium Post

ED busts Rs 48 cr hawala racket in Kolkata

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate on Monday busted a Rs 48 crore international hawala racket being run by a cattle smuggler in Kolkata as it conducted raids at 12 places in Kolkata in connection with the case, officials here said. However, senior officials with direct knowledge of the matter said that they stumbled upon the case when a Border Security Force Commandant Jibu Matthew was caught by the CBI in a Rs 45 lakh bribery case in Kerala with links to the cattle smuggler Mohammed Inamul Haque, who also allegedly ran the hawala racket.

Officials here said that the raids were conducted at the premises of companies set up by Haque and his associates in order to facilitate the operation of a hawala network, which had links to Dubai and other countries in the Middle East. The raids were conducted at Bentinck Street, Rajarhat, Bara Bazaar, MG Road and Clive Road, where evidence of the hawala racket was recovered, said one senior official.

Explaining the nature of the racket, he said that several chits with coded numbers were recovered from the searches. These coded numbers are used to facilitate hawala transactions, where the person disbursing the amount would write out a coded number on a paper and the receiver at the other end would need to confirm this code, before collecting the cash.

The searches also resulted in the recovery of cash of Rs 14 lakh and allegedly showed hawala transactions up to Rs 48 crore but top officials have claimed that the transactions could run into several hundreds of crores as per preliminary estimates. The ED has initiated proceedings against Haque and his associates under the Foreign Exchange Management Act and might also take cognizance of the CBI case to register a case under provisions of the Prevention of Money Launder Act.

The financial probe agency has so far identified at least four to five companies that were allegedly used to run the hawala network and said that these companies while showing genuine business activities on paper are suspected to have been used in sending money across international borders.

One senior official said that companies under the JHM Group have come under the scanner and were allegedly being operated by Jahangir Alam, Humayun Kabir and Mahdi Hassan. In addition, there was also the Haque group of companies which included entities such as Haque Mercantiles and Haque Logisitics among many others. Besides, the ED has also alleged that various other companies were set up showing a diverse range of export businesses such as rice and marble exports. The senior official also alleged that one Jajodia was the cash-handler in the hawala racket.

The ED has said that apart from the CBI case, the agency had received inputs about Haque and his activities from other federal agencies like the National Investigative Agency and the Income Tax department. While sources in the know have suggested that Jaque had political connections that allowed his racket to flourish, it remains to be seen where the ED probe leads.

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