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The BBC's John McIntyre
"Forensic experts say it was the best they've seen in this country"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 16:08 GMT
Banknote forgers guilty

Fake bank notes The fake bank notes had a face value of 50m


Two members of one of the biggest counterfeit currency rings ever to operate in Britain are facing jail after being convicted by a crown court jury.

Kenneth Mainstone, 61, and Anthony Wilkie, 59, were part of a conspiracy which flooded the country with fake banknotes with a face value of 50m and thousands of counterfeit stamps.

Winchester Crown Court heard how Mainstone, working with gang members Stephen Jory, Bernard Farrier and Martin Watmough, helped to provide two-thirds of all the fake currency circulating in Britain between 1993 and 1998.

'Outwardly respectable'

A jury of six men and six women took more than 14 hours to convict the defendants on conspiracy, counterfeiting and forgery charges following a trial which lasted almost three months.

A third man, 67-year-old Edward Burns, who had been said to have supplied paper for the production of the notes, was acquitted by the jury.


Kenneth Mainstone Kenneth Mainstone: Guilty
Jory, 50, Farrier, 67, and 46-year-old Watmough had earlier admitted a number of offences and did not stand trial.

Mr Stephen Parish, prosecuting, told the court how Mainstone was an "outwardly respectable" businessman who owned a printing company.

The fake notes were printed on a sophisticated four-colour printing press at his home in Upminster, Essex, the jury heard.

Wilkie supplied equipment for making perforations in fake stamps, a sideline to the ring's main operation.

Operation Mermaid

Wilkie and Farrier were also intending to mint fake one pound coins, but the plan was thwarted when arrests began in the south last summer, the court heard.


Anthony Wilkie Anthony Wilkie: Guilty
The counterfeiting ring began to crack when sheets of fake 20 and 50 notes were seized at Farrier's Isle of Wight home on 14 August last year.

The inquiry, called Operation Mermaid, then led police to Mainstone and Wilkie, who were subsequently arrested and charged.

The money was linked with an earlier 1.5m batch of fake cash for which Jory, an author, had been arrested in December 1994.

He was caught by police in Enfield, North London, on 18 August last year, handing over 20,000 in fake notes to Watmough.

Jory, of Beaconsfield Road, Barnet, London, and Farrier, an engineer of Broadfields Avenue, Cowes, admitted conspiracy to counterfeit currency notes with intent.

Pornography

Farrier admitted a further charge of conspiring to counterfeit protected coins with intent, while Watmough, of Arrowsmith Road, Chingford, Essex, admitted possessing counterfeit notes with intent.

Mainstone and Wilkie, however, denied the charges against them, claiming they had played no part in the gang.

Wilkie said police had planted counterfeiting equipment found at his home while Mainstone said he had let Jory use his printing press for the production of what he believed was soft-core pornography.

Mainstone, of Sunnings Lane, Upminster, Essex, was convicted of conspiracy to counterfeit currency notes with intent and conspiracy to forge stamps.

Sentences later

Wilkie, a tool-maker of Cumbrian Way, Downley, High Wycombe, Bucks, was found guilty of conspiracy to forge stamps and conspiracy to counterfeit protected coins with intent. The verdicts were unanimous.

Burns, of Douglas Road, Ilford, Essex, was cleared of conspiracy to counterfeit notes with intent.

Outside the hearing, Inspector Clive Merrett, the Hampshire police officer who led the inquiry, said the convictions were a "tribute" to the work that had gone into the inquiry.

Judge Michael Brodrick remanded Mainstone and Wilkie in custody until 19 January, when they will be sentenced together with Jory, Farrier and Watmough.
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