UK men jailed for £1.3m counterfeit sterling scam

Bundles of banknotesFour men in the UK have been sentenced to jail terms for faking more than £1.3m-worth ($2.1m) of £10 banknotes.

The scale of the illicit operation could have posed a "significant threat to the UK economy," according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The gang - brothers Amrit and Prem Karra (pictured below) and brothers-in-law Rajiv Kumar and Yash Mahey - produced the forged notes using their printing business in Hockley, Birmingham, which also had a number of legitimate business contracts.

The notes made by the criminals were of an "unusually high quality," said the NCA, noting they employed special ink, foil, dye and paper to make close copies of authentic notes. The four men used Karra Design and Printing's machinery to print the counterfeits after hours, when the rest of the firm's staff had gone home for the evening.

The notes, which are identifiable if security features are checked, have been found all over the country but the most significantly affected areas were the West Midlands, London and Kent.

Forensic analysis of the firm's equipment showed exactly when it was being used and what was being produced.

 "These men ran a sophisticated operation that posed a significant threat to the UK economy at the time," said Richard Warner, NCA's regional Head of Investigations.

The two Karra brothers have been sentenced to seven years in jail for their role in the conspiracy, while Kumar and Mahey received terms of four-and-a-half years each.

The Bank of England's 2013 annual report indicates that in calendar 2012 some £13.1m-worth of counterfeit notes were taken out of circulation, with the majority (90 per cent) spotted during machine sorting.

All told 13.4bn banknotes were machine sorted over the course of the year, suggesting that counterfeiting rates remain vanishingly small, at around 0.0054 per cent. It is interesting that the rate in 2012 was around twice that seen in 2011 and 2012, and around the same level as in 2009.

"Organised criminal gangs are behind the vast majority of all counterfeits detected," said the Bank, which started a consultation period last year on the introduction of a standard and code of conduct for the detection of counterfeits by automatic banknote handling machines.

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