Three men jailed after UK’s biggest-ever counterfeit cash haul

Three men from the UK have been sentenced to jail for their part in a conspiracy to supply more than £12m in counterfeit banknotes.

John Evans (27), Phillip Brown (54) and Nick Winter (58) – pictured left to right – are all thought to have links to an organised crime network and were taken into a custody after a lengthy investigation that culminated in the seizure of counterfeit currency at an industrial unit in Beckenham, Kent.

The raid at the unit in May 2019 uncovered Brown printing fake £20 notes, alongside counterfeits totalling £5.25m. The following October another £5m was found dumped by a dog walker, and £201,000 was scattered on a railway line. The Bank of England had also intercepted £1.6m-worth of the notes and taken them out of circulation.

Kent Police said that was “the single largest face-value seizure of fake currency in UK history,” and was a sophisticated operation using “the type of specialist printing equipment that would normally be associated with a company that produces large volumes of magazines or leaflets.”

Winter was jailed for six years last month for conspiring to supply counterfeit currency, while Evans was also given a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy and another count of attempting to pervert the court of justice.

Meanwhile, Brown – who told police officers ‘you have caught me red-handed’ during the raid - received a six years and six months term.

 “This was a sophisticated operation but one that was ultimately doomed to failure due to the offenders' mistaken belief that they could carry on undetected,” said detective chief superintendent Morgan Cronin of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.

“Counterfeiting directly funds organised crime and hurts the UK economy by creating losses for businesses, which ultimately affects the cost of the things we buy,” he added.

The case predated the introduction of the new polymer £20 note in the UK in February 2020, which is much harder to fake than the previous paper version. Aside from the substrate it is made from, the note incorporates new security features including two windows and a two-colour foil, a metallic hologram, and colour-shifting inks.

The old paper notes remain legal tender, and the Bank of England hasn’t yet activated the six-month notice period it has promised before they become obsolete. Even after that, most banks and the Post Office are expected to accept withdrawn notes as deposits from customers, and the Bank of England itself will exchange them for the new note.

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA) said the case “adds to concerns about sophisticated criminals looking to defraud people and cash in on advancements in specialist printing techniques.”

“Counterfeiting is a multibillion-dollar global problem and this latest development…shows that banknotes continue to be under threat even, perhaps more so, during the pandemic,” it added.

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