INR: After Indian currency of denominations 500 and 1,000 ceased to be legal tenders recently, speculations are rife that black money may be  entering Phuentsholing town.

As there is no limit for a Bhutanese to deposit Rupee (Rs) in the Ngultrum (Nu) account, locals think this could possibly be happening.

On November 10, when banks opened after a three-day break, many people in Phuentsholing rushed to deposit Rupee. Deposits were made from small amounts to more than Rs 2 million at a time.

Sources, however, said that clients who went to deposit more than Rs 3 million were not entertained.

One bank official said that there are chances that people might be bringing in black money. “However, it may be difficult to do so.”

Another official said: “We are strictly adhering to Know Your Customer norms.” He added that anything could happen in a place that shares a porous border with another town.

Sources said that bank officials in Phuentsholing received directives from their head offices asking them to be cautious. They were informed of possible inflow of black money from across the border.

A Phuentsholing resident, Tshering Yeshi, said that Bhutanese people could be lured easily.

“I heard people are even selling Ngultrum now in Jaigaon,” he said. “If the deposit is more than Rs 100,000 for ordinary people like us, income source must be revealed.”

Banks should check and monitor deposits more than Rs 500,000 and above for business entities, government or corporate agencies, Tshering Yeshi said, adding that Bhutanese could be lured into depositing and exchanging of Indian currency if commissions are given. Such things have happened in the past.

Sources said that illegal business of changing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 with Ngultrum has become a business in Jaigaon. Value of Ngultrum has gone up overnight in the town.

Businesspeople say that if black money enters Phuentsholing, it could be from big business organisations that have counterparts across the border.

However, with a deadline given to exchange of the stripped tender notes – December 15 until December 30 in Bhutan and India – chances are very less black money could enter Bhutan.

Shopkeepers in Phuentsholing are not entertaining old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes anymore.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing