Despite the efforts of the European Central Bank (ECB) and others to create money that can’t be forged, it remains an impossibility. A small group of criminals in southern Spain recently proved this to be true, but their illegal activities have been put to an end.
The group was known to have spent counterfeit €500 (US$540) notes at casinos and stores during a single week in November, amounting to between €50,000 and €60,000 (US$54,070 and $64,884). This was a strategic move due to the influx of shoppers in the region during Black Friday.
The criminal’s behavior was typical; they were eager to spend their fake money quickly and recklessly. This eventually led to their capture, as banks began to suspect the notes when they were handed in at the end of sales.
This prompted an investigation by the Bank of Spain, which concluded this month with the arrest of seven Bulgarians, all related to one another. Police investigations uncovered that the group had been going around Marbella and Fuengirola, paying for goods and services with the phony money.
The fake notes were convincingly designed, incorporating all the usual security features such as holograms, watermarks and security threads. This allowed them to successfully pass off the bills as real in the busy shopping and gambling areas, where employees didn’t have the time to check their authenticity.
The money was traced back to China, where a separate investigation last October identified a counterfeiting ring with international support, consisting of 12 people. This led to the confiscation of €8 million (US$8.65 million) in forged currency.
The ringleader of the operation was an ex-convict who had previously sourced materials from China, but had to find alternative resources when the pandemic disrupted the supply chain. He was eventually apprehended and returned to prison, showing that the criminal justice system had not deterred him from his activities.
In the end, these criminals were unsuccessful in their attempts to pass off fake money. The case serves as a reminder that counterfeiters will always exist, but that law enforcement can still bring them to justice.