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Mumbai, Jun 28: The police have got their finger on an ingenious foreign currency exchange racket being run outside the city airport with the help of taxi drivers.

The racket came to light when the airport police seized Indian and foreign currencies, collectively worth about Rs3 lakh, from five people on May 1. The five—racket’s financier Shambusingh Ranawat, Manoj Gurnani, Mohammed Abdul Kader, Prabhakar Jillah and Kayum Kader Jamadar—were arrested, the police said.

They said that Ranawat’s men and taxi drivers would wait for passengers returning from foreign countries at the exit of the airport, and lure them with offers of foreign currency exchange rates higher than those prescribed by the Indian government. Interested passengers were directed to the financier and his henchmen sitting in a private vehicle near the airport, the police said. The money changed hands in the vehicle, the police added.

Additional Commissioner of Police (west region) Bipin Bihari said, “The police arrested the five from a vehicle parked near the airport police station. Ranawat used to distribute around Rs5 lakh-Rs10 lakh each day to his operators, who, in turn, lured passengers coming to Mumbai from foreign countries with higher exchange rates.”

The police seized Rs82, 000 in Indian currency and US Dollars, Pound Sterling, Riyals and Dinars worth Rs1,70,000 from the accused.

Senior Police Inspector Dattatrey Sidam said, “The gang approached passengers leaving the airport premises and promised them exchange rates higher than those of the government. They also had some taxi drivers on their payrolls.”

Shyamal Mukherjee was one of the passengers whom the gang had tried to lure. “I had returned from a visit to the US. I hailed a taxi from outside Sahar airport. The driver asked me if I had carried back any foreign currency (US Dollars). When I showed no interest in changing currency, he asked me to pay the cab fare in US dollars at existing exchange rates. I refused, and paid in Indian rupees,” he said

Sidam lamented that repeated efforts to organise and streamline the taxi operations at the airport had met with resistance from the drivers’ union. The union even refused to instal electronic (tamper proof) meters in taxis, he said.


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