Counterfeit banknote print shop busted in Italy

Law enforcement agencies led by Italy’s Carabinieri have dismantled a counterfeit banknote print shop and arrested the person behind the operation.

The takedown took place during a raid on the facility yesterday in the city of Lecce in Southern Italy, which led to the seizure of more than €100,000 in fake banknotes and another €10,000 in cryptocurrencies. It was preceded by the arrests of buyers of large quantities of fake banknotes in Italy and France.

The operation, which was coordinated by Europol, was producing banknotes of varying denominations – including €5, €10, €20 and €50 notes – and was able to produce what have been described as “highly sophisticated” counterfeits that included security features like holograms designed to assist authentication.

Officers at the scene confiscated printing and cutting machines, as well as raw materials for the banknotes and the security features. The Carabinieri also seized the vendors’ electronic devices as well as an online channel used to advertise and sell the fake banknotes.

The investigation revealed that buyers could order counterfeit euro notes of various denominations via a dedicated communication channel. The producers would accept payment in cryptocurrencies and arrange for the fake bills to be sent via post.

According to the European Central Bank, despite high-profile cases like this, there is little likelihood of receiving a counterfeit, as the number remains low in proportion to the number of genuine banknotes in circulation.

Some 467,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2023, equivalent to just 16 fakes detected per million genuine notes in circulation.

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