“A small fire accident in Minister S. P. Velumani’s Godown. A small loss only. But huge amount was found safe,” is the message accompanying a video which shows piles of currency notes stacked together, some allegedly burnt in a fire. Velumani is an AIADMK MLA from Tamil Nadu.

A small fire accident in Minister S. P. Velumani’s Godown. A small loss only. But huge amount was found safe.

Posted by Ambrose Jegan on Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The same video is viral in Tamil with a message that reads – “நேற்று காலை தமிழக அமைச்சர் வேலுமணி அவர்கள் குடவுனில் தீ விபத்து! சேதாரம் சிறுசுதான்!! இவனுகளால் தமிழ்நாடு கெட்டுகுட்டிச்சுவரா போவதற்கு நீங்களும் ஒரு காரணம்…..கவனமாக தேர்தலில் வாக்களிக்கவும்…… Yesterday morning Tamil Nadu minister Velumani’s godown had a fire accident but the damage was small. Due to tghese people TN has got ruined so much and you are also a reason behind this. Please vote carefully.”

What is the truth?

If one carefully watches the video, it is quite clear that the currency notes are not the Indian Rupee. Due to the poor quality of the footage, the currency symbol or the country’s name is not visible, however, the colour of the notes and their corresponding value can be identified. For instance, the notes valued at 20 were blue, the orange ones were marked 50 and the green ones were valued at 100.

When we searched for currency notes according to the above-stated colour code, we found that they are Euro bills.

It is unlikely for a regional minister to hoard money in Euros. Moreover, if that were the case, the incident would have been reported in the media. These reasons were the first hints suggesting that social media claims were false.

Upon further inspection, we found that the same video was also viral with the narrative that the piles of cash were recovered from Pakistani politician Agha Siraj Durrani’s house.

سندھ اسمبلی آغا سراج درانی کے گھر کی بیسمنٹ سے برآمد ہونے والی کرنسی کے ہیں 👇👇👇

‏یہ مناظر کسی بنک کے والٹ کے نہیں بلکہ پیپلزپارٹی راہنما اور اسپیکر سندھ اسمبلی آغا سراج درانی کے گھر کی بیسمنٹ سے برآمد ہونے والی کرنسی کے ہیں 👇👇👇

Posted by 72News on Monday, 11 March 2019

AFP debunked these claims in a March 19 report. The media organisation found that the clip represented a 2018 art installation in Spain. The notes were hand-painted by Spanish artist, Alejandro Monge, who uploaded the same video on his Instagram account, calling out the false claims ascribed to his artwork.

According to AFP, the caption of his post, written in Spanish, says, “It’s one of the things about the internet that something can go viral without knowing why it does… and then nobody knows what it is or who it is from. If people knew what sculpture is and knew the tickets are painted by hand… @monge-art share!!”

AFP also had an email conversation with Monge, where the artist said, The video was taken by a visitor to the ArtMadrid art fair in 2018 and a Dutch website published it without mentioning anything, so the decontextualised video was perfect for fake news websites around the world, we know it has been used in Haiti, Russia, Cameroon, Spain and Pakistan with different news stories linking it to local politicians. The sculpture was published on my Instagram page a year ago, including documenting the whole production process. The sculpture is made of resin and wood and the bills are coloured by hand with colouring pencils.”

Unrelated videos, accusing politicians of stacking illegal money, have been found floating on social media in the past as well. A BJP worker from Karnataka was the target of similar misinformation in 2018. Videos of fake currency notes have also been shared on social media as with false narratives.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.