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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 12:22 GMT
Low-tech tricksters assault euro
Genuine 50 euro notes
The notes feature a host of security features
By BBC News Online's Mark Snelling

The euro, they say, is a safe currency.

Look at the watermark, the silvery hologram, the security strip.

There are numbers that become visible only when held against a light and other numbers that change colour when the note is tilted.


Ideally, either the European Central Bank or the makers of Monopoly will agree to change the note

Swindled French bar owner
It is a professional forger's nightmare, and the architects of Euroland are trumpeting their triumph over the dark hand of organised crime.

However, there are some who are trying a low-tech approach to fraud.

Caught red-handed

Opting to bypass the intricate workmanship and devious criminal intent of the master forger, a 34-year-old German man kept it simple.

He photocopied the note.

Euro coin
Belgian euro coins may be asymmetrically minted
The Associated Press news agency said he was arrested on Wednesday in western Germany after trying to pay for drinks at a petrol station with a photocopy of a 20-euro bill.

According to local police, the man's blood alcohol level was found to be nearly three times over the legal limit for driving.

He was caught after a sharp-eyed petrol pump attendant spotted the forgery and called the police.

Monopoly mastermind

In the southwestern French town of Auch, another man had more success with a plot of equally fiendish simplicity.

He used Monopoly money, enjoyed his drink, and walked away.

Wim Duisenberg, European Central Bank President
Wim Duisenberg with some real notes

Reports said bar-keeper Jean-Paul Bouton only discovered the toy five euro note when he was cashing up at the end of the night.

The classic board game now comes in a euro edition.

"Ideally, either the European Central Bank or the makers of Monopoly will agree to change the note," Mr Bouton told the Reuters news agency.

Back in Germany, a fraudster at an amusement arcade in the town of Alzey, near Frankfurt, actually managed to make some decent money.

According to AP, the cashier gave him DM997.71 ($460) in change for a picture of a 500 euro note that he had cut out of a newspaper.

He remains at large.

Heads up

Meanwhile, two Polish statisticians have discovered something about euro coins that should gladden the hearts of confidence tricksters.

The coin apparently favours heads.

When Tomas Gliszczynski and Waclaw Zawadowski of the Podlaska Academy spun one Belgian euro coin 250 times, it came up with King Albert's head 140 times.

"The euro is struck asymmetrically," Mr Gliszczynski told Germany's Die Welt newspaper.

He said he hoped to experiment with German euro coins at a maths conference next month.

"I know the phenomenon from other coins like the two zloty piece, which we have thrown more than 10,000 times," he said.


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