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NEW DELHI: In a move that seeks to ensure India’s compliance with Financial Action Task Force norms on money laundering, Reserve Bank of India cancelled licences of 19 big foreign exchange dealers who allegedly issued huge foreign currencies in cash to some high net-worth individuals, allegedly helping them stash black money in tax havens. In one case, a Mumbai-based forex dealer was found to have issued Rs 2,000 crore worth of forex based on forged documents.

The government has now engaged multiple agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), to carry out further investigation of the ‘clients’ of these 19 forex dealers and trail the source of cash flows.

The ban on forex dealers comes ahead of India’s scrutiny of anti-money laundering infrastructure later this month by the Financial Action task Force (FATF), the Paris-based inter-governmental body that sets standards and monitors each country’s effectiveness in combating money laundering and terror financing.

While ED investigated the Mumbai forex dealer involving illegal forex transactions worth Rs 2,000 crore, the DRI busted a similar syndicate where it detected forex smuggling of more than Rs 180 crore out of the country. These foreign currencies were provided by money changers in cash based on bogus documents, according to an assessment report prepared by the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB).

“Forged travel documents and photocopies of passports were used to obtain foreign exchange. Further investigation revealed that persons in whose name such forex cards and foreign currency were obtained had never travelled abroad,” the CEIB report said. The CEIB is also a member of a joint working group for monitoring and ensuring that India meets the FATF guidelines.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

PM greets Bengal on Durga Puja, calls for Covid caution

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NEW DELHI: Addressing the people of West Bengal on the sixth day of Durga Puja on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people once again to remain vigilant and not lower their guard in the country’s fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Apnader sakalke janai Durga Puja o Kali Pujar shubhechha (Durga Puja and Deepavali greetings to all),” the PM said in Bengali while appealing to revellers to celebrate Puja with caution.

After recalling several measures towards women empowerment, he appealed to the people to adhere to social distancing norms (“do gaj ki doori”) and wear masks while taking part in festivities. “We are celebrating Durga Puja in times of Covid-19, all devotees have shown exemplary restraint. The number of people might be less but the grandeur and devotion are the same. This is the real Bengal,” he said while sharing his ‘Pujor Shubecha’ (Puja greetings) message.

BJP had made elaborate arrangements for live telecast of the PM’s virtual address from the national capital. It was televised live at over 78,000 polling booths across the state’s 294 assembly constituencies. After decades of limited presence in the state, BJP emerged as the main rival to Trinamool Congress (TMC), winning 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections.

Modi is the first PM to inaugurate Durga pujas in Kolkata, Howrah, Ranaghat, Barasat, Midnapore, Bankura, Malda and Siliguri that have already figured on the BJP’s political map eight months ahead of assembly polls, which may take place around April-May next year.

Combining the spiritual with present-day reality, Modi also urged people to respect girls and described the Mother Goddess as the source of power and peace. “We should respect girls because woman power has the potential to defeat all forces,” he said.

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INDIA

Opposition, internet activists slam Kerala ordinance

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala government’s decision to introduce a new section (118A) in the Kerala Police Act to check increasing abuse in social media and cybercrime is “anti-democratic and fascist” as it will enable police to register cases against anyone, including the mainstream media, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said on Thursday.

“If the government goes ahead with the ordinance, it will be fought legally as well as politically,” he said.

Allaying fears, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “The amendment is not intended to curb creative freedom or to intervene in the right to free speech. It is a known fact that there are attempts to defame persons widely and there are demands for an effective legal remedy.”

Internet rights activists said the amendment was more draconian than 66A of the IT Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court.

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INDIA

UP cop suspended for sporting beard

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MEERUT: A beard grown and kept “despite warnings” has led to the suspension of subinspector Intesar Ali in UP’s Baghpat. While SP Abhishek Singh said Ali did not have authorisation, as rules require, Ali insisted he had sought permission to keep his beard but hadn’t heard back from his seniors.

“I had applied for permission to my circle officer in November 2019. It was forwarded to senior officials,” Ali, posted at Ramala police station, told TOI on Thursday. “This is a matter of faith and a just demand. I will request my superiors to consider my request again.”

The 46-year-old has been serving with the police for the past 25 years and was posted at Ramala this March.

A statement from the local police said Ali had been “warned on several occasions and was served a notice over the dress code.” The Baghpat SP said, “UP police uniform rules are clear… He had been warned several times. A notice was served, but his indiscipline continued. A beard is allowed on a permanent basis only for followers of Sikhism. The armed forces also allow that because the beard is an integral part of their faith. It is not the case with Islam.”

Police uniform rules in India do not allow beard, though moustache is allowed.

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