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Money exchanges adopt stricter norms



Muscat: Money exchange centers in the Sultanate have introduced stringent measures to detect counterfeit currencies in the aftermath of the crisis faced by two Omani families, who landed in trouble in India for allegedly possessing fake Indian rupees.

The new measures include special training for staff to easily detect fake currencies, a reluctance to accept the Indian rupee (for purchasing other currencies) in large quantities from anyone other than Indians and Omanis, mandating the use of a resident card for the purchase of foreign currencies, and an attempt to gain access to Royal Oman Police's database for cross-checking resident cards for duplicates.

"We have issued two circulars — one to exchange houses and the other to banks — to take precautions when dealing with foreign currencies," Hamoud Sangour Al Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman, told Times of Oman.

"We have to take extreme precautions now. If a non-Indian comes to us with a large sum in rupees, we usually do not accept the money. However, if it is an Omani national, we consider it (for exchange) since the money could have been the remainder of money they brought in from India on a return journey," said B Rajan, General Manager of Al Jadeed Exchange.

According to the Reserve Bank of India's guidelines, a person travelling abroad can carry only Rs7,500, he said.Money exchanges in the Sultanate have introduced stringent measures to detect counterfeit currencies in the aftermath of two Omani families unknowingly landed in trouble in India for allegedly possessing fake Indian rupees.

These measures include special training for staff to easily detect fake currencies, reluctance to accept Indian rupee (for buying other currencies) in large quantities from nationalities other than Indians and Omanis, norms to produce resident card for buying foreign currencies and a move to get access to ROP's data base for cross checking duplicate resident cards.

 "We have issued two circulars – one to exchange houses and the other one to banks – for taking precautions while dealing with foreign currencies," Hamoud Sangour Al Zadjali, Executive President of the Central Bank of Oman told Times of Oman.

"We have to take extreme precautions now. If a non-Indian comes with a large quantity of rupees, we question them and generally do not take it. However, if it is an Omani national, we consider it as it could be the balance money they bring from India on their return journey," said B Rajan, General Manager of Al Jadeed Exchange. "Also, as per the Reserve Bank of India guideline, a person travelling outside the country can carry only Rs.7,500 with him," he further added.

Six unique features
Rajan said there are six unique features in Indian rupee, which may not be seen in counterfeit notes. This can be detected by using a UV counterfeit currency detector. He added that the branches have been given clear guidelines and UV counterfeit currency detectors for detecting fake currencies. "Of late, some counterfeit currencies overcome UV counterfeit currency detector checks."

He also noted that the exchange companies have made a proposal to the Royal Oman Police for linking the database of exchange firms with Royal Oman Police to detect any kind of fake document produced at the exchange while changing currencies. The ROP has approved the proposal.

"However, this is yet to be implemented as certain technical issues have to be sorted out," noted Rajan, whose exchange has 13 branches and three outlets at the airport. All exchange houses have camera survilliance and in case of an investigation, the video clippings will be given to ROP.

He said a Bangladeshi national was caught by Al Jadeed Exchange officials in Salalah a month ago while trying to exchange counterfeit Omani rial note, which was a high quality photocopy. He was handed over to the police.

Asked whether India's investigating agency, National Investigation Agency (NIA), has approached Oman government for helping the probe, Sangour said he is not aware of it. "Even if they approach, the foreign affairs ministries of both countries must have been in contact," he added.

Responding to another question on whether the central bank would take action against the exchange houses that sold counterfeit Indian rupee, he said the exchange houses have done it unknowingly."We will look at it at this angle," he further said. Sangour also noted that Royal Oman Police has already approached Interpol for nabbing the Asian national who sold fake Indian currencies to exchanges houses at Khaboura and at the Muscat airport.
He went back after selling the currency.

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