by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
"Barter Trade" or Terror Funding
NIA raids J&K Trade centers, exposes Rs 300 crore hawala racket
New Delhi, Jan 23
The National Investigation Agency is investigating whether two barter trade centers between India and Pakistan are generating hundreds of crores of “Hawala” operation helping terror groups.
In a massive operation recently, the NIA seized records of over 350 traders from Kashmir and also in Delhi to investigate whether barter trade route was used to fund separatists and terror activities in the Valley and elsewhere.
The NIA sleuths raided barter trade centers in Uri and Poonch earlier this month after getting intelligence inputs that barter trade resulted in under-invoicing and over-invoicing. The NIA estimates that Rs 300 crores of undue profit was made by traders operating in Uri and Poonch centers which was passed onto the separatists and terror groups. Essentially, Pakistani traders sold their goods cheap to their Indian counter-parts so that they can make a killing. Since this trade is cash-less and goods can only be exchanged only by goods, the value is fixed mutually. Once the traders in J&K get the goods, these are sold to wholesale merchants in Delhi, Jammu and Punjab. These goods are sold to merchants at 40% of the prices while rest of the money is paid in cash.
It may be mentioned that barter trade between India and Pakistan started during the Manmohan Singh regime in October 2008 through a special agreement. The two centres were opened in Uri and Poonch to held the traders of these regions on both sides of the line of control. Under the agreement, no cash will be involved and only 21 items were permitted for mutual trade and exchange of goods. The value of the items is to be fixed by the traders.
The NIA sleuths are now scrutinizing the documents seized from Uri, Poonch and whole-sale markets in Delhi and other parts. A highly confidential report has already been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Barter trade agreement is monitored by the Ministry of Home Affairs and not by the Commerce Ministry. It has been pointed out by NIA that an amount of Rs 300 crores was made in excess by traders in Uri & Poonch and this money reached in the hands of the separatists.
The NIA is also finding out if some bureaucrats in the J&K government and politicians are also behind the inflated transactions and benefited in either way.
The Custodian of LoC trade Farooq Ahmad Shah has told the sleuths that on average the trade between two parts of Kashmir is worth over Rs 30 million ($440,000) per day: “On average we are allowing 40-50 trucks each day, four days a week from both the sides.” He said that the need for banking facilities has been brought to the notice of the higher authorities.