Europol Seizes almost €450,000 in Counterfeit Bank Notes
Europol, the European police service, has successfully supported Romanian authorities in dismantling an organized crime group responsible for circulating counterfeit euro bank notes and the circulation of counterfeit Romanian lei. The criminal action was halted as the crime network planned to put counterfeit bank notes equivalent to €50,000 into circulation.
The criminal group, active for three years, was counterfeiting banknotes in denominations of €50, €100 and €500. The banknotes were found in several EU countries including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.
Law enforcement authorities from Austria, Belgium, Germany and Spain along with representatives from the European Central Bank assisted in the investigation which involved 10 arrests, the seizure of almost €450,000 in counterfeit notes, 16,000 seized in genuine euros and lei, and the confiscation of cocaine and cannabis.
The investigation uncovered that the counterfeiters had recently acquired the necessary technology to use polymers. The criminal network adapted their methods and materials for the type of currency they were producing. Overall, 1,300 counterfeit banknotes were identified and withdrawn from circulation.
The European Central Bank closely monitors advances in printing and reproduction technologies and records the number of counterfeits seized. They are analysed by the central banks of the euro area and by the ECB’s Counterfeit Analysis Centre, which collects and processes technical and statistical information on counterfeits. It shares this information with national police forces and other bodies involved in combating counterfeiting.
According to the ECB, Euro banknote counterfeiting is low, but people should remain vigilant and check their bank notes. The most recent ECB figures available show that some 460,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2020, (220,000 in the second half of the year), a decrease of 17.7% when compared with 2019. €20 and €50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes, jointly accounting for about two thirds of the total. 94.5% of counterfeits were found in euro area countries, while 2.8% were found in non-euro area EU Member States and 2.7% in other parts of the world.
In 2020, 17 counterfeits were detected per 1 million genuine banknotes in circulation, a historically low level. There are over 25 billion Euro banknotes in circulation.