Thousands of fake euro notes pulled from circulation
EU member state authorities collectively removed over 250,000 fake euro notes in the first six months of 2012, said the European Central Bank (ECB) in a statement published on Monday (16 July).
The figure is 15 percent lower when compared to the same period last year. Almost all the notes were recovered in Eurozone countries. The vast majority were either €20 or €50 bills.
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“The two most counterfeited denominations together accounted for 77.0% of the total during the first half of 2012,” said the ECB.
Despite the overall drop in counterfeit bills, the ECB found a slight increase in the number of fake €50 bills in circulation. In their January report for the second half of 2011, the ECB had found the opposite trend with the €20 bills on the rise and €50 bills on the decrease.
“This shows that actually it has far more to do with the fact that criminals adapt very quickly and very well to how they are being checked and targeted, and then so do law enforcement agencies. So the trends change very quickly,” a spokesperson for the European Parliament’s committee on organised crime said in an email.
The Campania region of southern Italy accounts for more than half of the 550,000 to 800,000 fake euro notes pulled from circulation annually by European central banks, says the committee.
In June, the EU police body Europol along with a Bulgarian regional crime fighting unit, dismantled an operation that was attempting to sell €30,000 of counterfeited €100 bills near a hotel in Bulgaria’s second largest city of Plovdiv.
Police also seized €60,000 of fake notes as well as vehicles, computers, and SIM cards near the hotel.
In another operation on 26 June, police raided an illegal mint shop concealed in the basement of a rural farmhouse near Thessaloniki, Greece.
The two suspects, one Greek and another Bulgarian, were mass-producing the two euro domination coin with the Belgian national design stamped on the obverse. Enough raw material at the site was discovered to press the equivalent of €100,000 in coins.
Three other members of the organised crime group were also arrested in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
A spokesperson for Belgium’s Federal Police told EUobserver that they had been informed of the operation but “have yet to find any of the coins in circulation in Belgium”.
Meanwhile, counterfeited euro notes are not restricted to Europe.
Fake €500 bills are thought to be a favourite among international drug smugglers. In April, the authorities in Bogotá, Colombia, dismantled a counterfeit press and seized half a million counterfeit euro notes.
The European Commission, for its part, supports a number of national projects through its Pericles 2020 programme.
The programme aims to protect the euro banknotes and coins against counterfeiting and assists national and European authorities to increase co-operation.