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Amount of Counterfeit Euros Up, ECB Says

The number of counterfeit euro bank notes withdrawn from circulation rose 8 percent during the last six months of 2009, with the 20 euro ($28.80) bill the most widely forged, the European Central Bank said Monday.

Some 447,000 fake bills were recovered between July and December, up from 413,000 in last year's first half, the Frankfurt-based central bank for the 16-nation eurozone said.

The ECB said it couldn't offer an explanation for the rise, but noted in a statement that "the proportion of counterfeits is still very low" in comparison with an increasing number of genuine bank notes in circulation.

The number of real bills averaged 12.8 billion in the second half.

The increase in counterfeits recovered in the second half was less sharp than in the previous six months, when it rose by nearly 17 percent.

The counterfeiter's favorite euro bill remains the 20 euro note, which accounted for 47 percent of the forgeries, the ECB said.

It was followed by the 50 euro note, which accounted for 39 percent.

More than 98 percent of the counterfeits were recovered in eurozone countries, with only 1 percent found in European Union nations that don't use the currency and a mere 0.5 percent elsewhere.

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