Bulgarian euro counterfeiters busted by authorities

Law enforcers have successfully taken down an illegal counterfeit operation that was printing out 100 euro notes in Bulgaria; one which Europol describes as one of Europe's "most significant" operations in recent years.

The print shop, located in the Bulgarian city of Pleven, was holding counterfeit 100 euro banknotes, both ready to go and in development; Europol, the EU law enforcement agency announced Friday.

A clip from the successful bust against the euro counterfeiters in Bulgaria
Credit: Europol
A clip from the successful bust against the euro counterfeiters in Bulgaria

Europol described the seizure of fake currency bills as "one of Europe's most significant" operations as of late, due to "the quality of the forged notes detected in circulation in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain."

Hologram stickers, fake identity documents, a laser engraving machine, and other printing apparatus, were among the goods confiscated by the authorities, following the raid.

As of Friday, three people have been taken into custody.

Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security and its Ministry of Interior, worked alongside Europol during the operation, so they could find a safe and secure way to raid the illegal workshop on April 22. Members of Europol provided specific support in the investigation of the fake goods and printing equipment.

As the euro is seen as "stable" with low inflation, the currency makes it appealing for counterfeiting projects, Rob Wainwright, Europol director said in a statement, adding that police operations like those seen, underline how important it is to protect the currency.

"The information gathered during the raid and from the forensic analysis of the seized banknotes attests to the huge production potential of this criminal organization, both in terms of quantities of counterfeited banknotes but also on account of their quality," Wainwright added.

Europol help assist leading authorities constantly, to uncover new cases involving counterfeit goods, such as electronic goods and food. In 2014, Europol helped the Colombian National Police — among other authorities — take down an illegal digital print shop and make arrests, after uncovering counterfeit goods, including 100 euro banknotes (face value 609,600 euros), counterfeit ID cards and 347 million fake Colombian pesos.

According to statistics from the European Central Bank (ECB), around 445,000 fake euro banknotes were removed from circulation during July to December 2015; with counterfeiting figures showing a steady decline since the second half of 2014.

If anyone does come across a banknote they think may be counterfeit, the ECB recommends they should check the banknote's texture, tilt and appearance; and contact authorities.

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