Hawala money flows into Kerala via cryptocurrency too

The hawala money is transferred via cryptocurrency instead of currency notes. Creative: Manorama

 Kochi: A Kerala-based digital hawala racket, which daily indulges in black money dealings worth Rs 120 crore, has become active, the investigations by the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) revealed.

The hawala money is transferred via cryptocurrency instead of currency notes. The ‘USDT’ type of cryptocurrency is used for the illegal money transfer. The transactions of the gang are based out of Deira in Dubai, the Intelligence Bureau probe found.

A 30-member Malayali gang is leading the digital hawala operations under cover of IT initiatives. The Central Intelligence agency is closely monitoring the activities of each of them.

The racket daily generates over Rs seven crore towards commission and transfer charges. The inquiry further found that this money is used chiefly for synthetic drug dealings, which could generate over 400 percent excess profit.

Upon handing over the dirham currency equivalent to Rs 21.74 to the hawala racket, cryptocurrency for an equivalent amount will be deposited in the accounts (Wallet) of the racket chain in India. An equivalent value of this amount will be provided to the ‘customer’ back home in Indian currencies. Many working abroad, but drawing moderate salaries, often fall into their net, and they transfer money through the racket thinking it's legal.

The digital hawala racket charges a commission of 2336 dirhams for every Rs 50,000. This is 32 dirhams (Rs 695) more than that charged by the currency hawala rackets. This they do, citing the safety of the transactions. Meanwhile, the racket charges only 2250 dirhams for every Rs 50,000 from dealers who give them business worth Rs two crore daily.

Why hawala?

If one relies on recognized money exchanges to send money from UAE to India, they have to pay 17 dirhams (Rs 370) to transfer up to 1000 dirhams and 23 dirhams (Rs 500) to transfer an amount over 1000 dirhams as a service charge. This is also subject to the variations in the exchange rate of UAE Dirham to Indian Rupee. The ordinary Indian diaspora depends on the racket, not just as a cheaper money remittance channel. On many occasions, they will be offered the amount as an 'advance’ back home, which they can repay in dirhams from the Gulf in various installments.

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