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‘World’s Best Forger’ of Plastic Banknotes Nabbed in Romania

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 6/25/2020 Irina Vilcu and Andra Timu

(Bloomberg) -- Romania apprehended a man law enforcement called the world’s best forger of high-security plastic banknotes.

The operation was part of a crackdown on a criminal gang allegedly counterfeiting cash previously thought to be almost impossible to accurately reproduce. Replicas of Romania’s one-hundred-lei bill were so good they earned the nickname Super Leu.

“The evolution of this type of fake since 2014 has been spectacular,” the organized-crime unit said Wednesday in a statement. The gang’s leader “managed to produce the best forgeries in Romania’s history and become the best counterfeiter of plastic banknotes in the world.”

The polymer bills, introduced in 1999, are a source of pride for Romania’s central bank because of the difficulty in faking them and because their durability means they last longer. A plunge in forgeries has also been welcomed by the Bank of England since it began switching to polymer notes in 2016.

The bills have also proved more useful amid the Covid-19 pandemic, being more hygienic and helping to stem the spread of the virus.

“Plastic money has two features: it’s very hard to forge and can easily be washed with soap and water, without deterioration,” Adrian Vasilescu, a central bank adviser, said recently.

a stack of flyers on a table © Bloomberg

Stacks of forged bills uncovered during the raid.

Source: DIICOT

Levels of counterfeit cash have remained low in Romania, with fakes more commonplace in the euro area, whose high-denomination bills are favored by many criminal groups.

Romanian law enforcement chasing the high-quality forgery gang raided five properties in Bucharest and a mountain resort, detaining three people it didn’t name. They stand accused of offenses dating back as far as 2014 and are responsible for about 1.7 million lei ($400,000) in damages.

The leader of the group, identified only by the initials C.R.T., was detained for 24 hours and is awaiting a ruling on whether he can be arrested for 30 days, according to a statement Thursday from prosecutors.

The operation revealed why the crooks were so tricky to catch: they only sought to pass the money off to people the gang’s leader deemed sufficiently gullible, scouting local fairs and events, where they’d turn off their mobile phones. They also used sophisticated materials and a state-of the-art printer.

“Witnesses weren’t able to give any information about the notes because no one realized they were fake,” the organized-crime unit said.

(Updates with leader’s detention, group’s methods starting in ninth paragraph.)

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