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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Colombian forgers foiled
Counterfeit money
The US dollar is relatively easy to forge
By business reporter Mark Gregory

The authorities in Colombia have broken up a sophisticated counterfeiting ring which they say produced millions of forged United States dollars.

Police said they had arrested 13 people in the city of Medellin, and seized printing machines capable of producing almost perfect dollars and currency from four Latin American countries.


Experts say dollars are relatively easy to forge

Central banks around the world fight a never ending battle against fake banknotes.

One tactic is to constantly change the design of legal tender. In Britain, for example, there is a new 20 note that features a picture of the composer Edward Elgar.

He was chosen over the novellist Jane Austen because his face was thought to be more difficult to copy.

A wide range of features and techniques are employed by currency authorities around the world to make notes hard to fake - including the use of special papers, complex printing processes, watermarks and invisible security features detectable only by bank counting machines.

The two main production centres for counterfeit banknotes are Colombia, which is the source of around a third of fake US dollars in circulation, and Hong Kong.

Fewer security features

Not surprisingly, it is the world's leading currency - the US dollar - that is most frequently faked.

Experts say dollars are relatively easy to forge. The notes have fewer embedded security features than other major currencies, and the way they look has hardly changed in decades.

Within the US, currency fraud is seen as a manageable issue. The government has a large department dedicated to combatting it, and there are harsh and rigorously enforced penalties for anyone caught.

Experts say the main problem with fake dollar bills is outside the US, especially in parts of Latin America where the dollar has formally or informally taken over from the local currency.

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Americas
Colombia forges ahead
18 Nov 00 | Americas
Colombia dollar factory cracked
31 Jan 01 | Americas
Funny money in Kentucky
23 Mar 01 | Europe
Money fakers spy a chance
20 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Trillions of fake US bonds seized
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