Indian Minister Held for Flouting Currency Ban

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Jun 30 (IANS): In a potentially embarrassing situation for the Indian government, Nagaland Home Minister Imkong L. Imchen was detained here Wednesday for flouting a currency ban that is punishable with a fine and imprisonment.

Imchen was detained at the Tribhuvan International Airport while trying to catch a Jet Airways flight to New Delhi.

Imchen, who won the 2008 election as a member of the Nagaland People's Front from Koridang, was held after a security check revealed that he was carrying Rs.9 lakh in 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.

Over a decade ago, the Reserve Bank of India banned the transaction of 500 and 1,000 Indian rupee notes outside India in a bid to crack down on the mushrooming counterfeit Indian currency racket with major hubs in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Carrying the banned notes in Nepal is a punishable offence that can merit up to five years in prison or a fine or both.

The Indian minister had made an incognito visit to Nepal with his wife and two sons June 27.

It was not known immediately what had prompted the visit.

His detention caught the Indian embassy here unaware, raising questions about whether the minister had obtained the mandatory clearance from the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi.

While Imchen's wife Alila and sons Sungtikumba and Daochier were allowed to catch the 9.30 a.m. flight to New Delhi, the minister was detained for questioning.

The Indian embassy said they were looking into the matter.

In November, two women from another northeastern Indian state, Mizoram, landed in trouble at a domestic airport in Nepal after they were found to be carrying the banned Indian currency.

Lalring Heti, 41, and Lal Moonbami, 37, were arrested in Bhadrapur in eastern Nepal while trying to catch a flight to Kathmandu after they were found to be carrying Rs.195,000 in 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.

Despite the ban, Indian tourists continue to be ignorant of it. leading to many cases of detentions at Nepal airports.



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