Italian police arrest mafia counterfeiters

200 euro notesMembers of the Italian mafia known as the 'Napoli Group' have been detained by Italian police for producing fake money.

In all, 56 members of a Naples gang of counterfeiters have been arrested for producing a staggering 90 per cent of all false euros in circulation across the globe.

The people were charged with possession, use and distribution of counterfeit banknotes, the anti-counterfeiting unit of Italy's Carabinieri military police, said in a statement.

Carabinieri said the arrests took place after over two years of investigations during which they uncovered a money printing facility, arrested 29 others, and seized banknotes and official seals worth about €1m.

The Napoli Group is responsible for most of the world's counterfeiting activity, according to the statement.

It consisted of at around 10 distinct criminal groups, each specialising in a different stage of the counterfeiting process, from buying off-set printers to obtaining the correct paper and ink and distributing the counterfeit money.

The fake cash would flow from Naples and various other Italian cities to the rest of the world. Countries that were particularly affected include France, Spain, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, the statement added.

The region where the group formed is known to the Italian police as the stronghold of the Camorra mafia, which allegedly makes billions of euros a year from drug trafficking, prostitution and the illegal dumping of toxic waste.

The syndicate had even produced a 300 euro note – a denomination that does not exist. The group had also developed its own jargon, referring to money as "postcards", "shoes" and even "gnocchi". Dollars were known as "Americans" or "embassies".

According to the police, the syndicate started producing fake euros within days of the currency being introduced into Italy in 2002.

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