Industry of ill-gotten gains
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In Bangalore, several recent incidents have highlighted the trend. Eshwarappa could have no justifiable reason to have a currency counting machine in his possession. In another episode, Lokayukta officials intercepted the car of a Bangalore corporator's brother and discovered a cash counting machine.
A currency machine now appears to be a badge of honour amongst the corrupt across India. Madhu Koda, the former chief minister from Jharkhand who became notorious for his money-laundering scam, was discovered to be a millionaire with business interests in far-flung countries like Liberia and Laos. In the stash discovered in Koda's home were five currency counting machines. Such machines were reportedly found in the home of Ashok Jadeja, Ahmedabad-based conman and fake guru who defrauded thousands in a money-multiplier scheme. A Madhya Pradesh doctor couple in government service was found with huge amounts of unaccounted cash and a currency counting machine a few months ago.
Possessing a currency counting machine is not illegal in India. But the recent discoveries suggest that illegal cash transactions are so massive that physical counting is impractical and machines are being brought in. These days corruption cases anyway involve tens of crores of rupees, if not hundreds. It is becoming routine for corrupt politicians and bureaucrats to have a currency counting machine besides documents, cash and jewelry, said Justice Santosh Hegde, former Karnataka Lokayukta and an anti-corruption crusader. "Bribes are mostly received in cash and this indicates the volume of unaccounted money sloshing about in the financial system," said Justice Hegde. Currency machines are symptomatic of India's parallel economy, he said. He suggested the government either ban private citizens from owning currency counting machines or bring in a licensing system to regulate their possession.
Some are saying currency machines are revolutionising Indian politics by bringing in the latest technological advances in corruption. Plugging the rampant sale of these machines is not impossible. It is time the country's finance minister and the tax agencies took note. To start with, finding out which private individuals bought such machines, and paying a visit to all of them, is in order.
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