(Exclusive photo) An amount of about 10 thousand of counterfeit British banknotes is circulating in the Tirana foreign exchange market, as of June. Investigim.al has been able to get in touch with one of the persons who distributes the forged money and has bought from him two forged 20-pound notes.
By: Spartak Koka
Over 10 thousand of forged pounds have entered the Albanian currency market during the last month. It results this forged money is all in 20-pound notes (twenty Pounds), which have been distributed to certain individuals, who appears to have even purchased goods or have them exchanged by the free market dealers (free-market foreign exchange) in the center of Tirana, therefore inflicting a financial harm to Albanian citizens.
After investigating for a few days in Tirana, we made it to contact with one of the persons who owns forged English banknotes. According to this person, this amount of British currency has entered Albania through Italy, since June.
“To by honest, it was a friend who gave me this money; in fact, he sold me nearly 500 pounds. For each 20-pound note, I gave my friend seven thousand of the old Albanian money, and so far, I have managed to ‘spend’ nearly 180 pounds”, the young man who preferred to remain unidentified told us. According to this person, who was employed in a good private company, the forged 20-pound bills are very difficult to be distinguished from the original.
“So far, none of the persons I have dealt with has distinguished the forged money. I have bought clothes in different boutique shops and the sellers have not distinguished them at all. They have even given me the change for the clothes I paid for”, he added, emphasizing the fact that this was the first time he was using forged money.
Forged note – up; original one – down
Asked by us if there is any organized group operating in Albania, he responded that, “Personally, this is my first time; however, the friend who gave me this money is in the business since the 2000s and cooperates with several other people, that I do not know in person. They provide the forged banknotes from Belgium, Italy, but also from Slovenia, which is one of the sources of the forged Euros”.
We managed to take him a 20-pound note for a thousand Albanian lek, which we will keep as a material evidence to present to the relevant lawmaking bodies.
When we asked about such a problem and showed them the counterfeit banknote, the free market dealers that work close to the Bank of Albania (at the “Dollar” area, as they use to call it), tell you how many of them have been caught some time ago, due to forged 20-british pounds and 20-Canadian dollars.
“The 20-pound forged notes are the most sophisticated imitation of the original, together with the 20-Canadian dollar bill. Only persons that have worked for years with foreign currencies, can tell the difference, while ordinary citizens think the forged ones are original”, Servet, a free market dealer that has worked in the street near the central bank for over 15 years, said.
“The state must intervene here. Two friends of mine keep home each a thousand false pounds (20-pound notes), because two years ago in August, two persons came at our market and exchanged about two thousand pounds, so, each a thousand. The two dealers realized only after 15 days that the pounds they had bought were false”, Landi, another dealer added.
When we told them that this year in June, about 10 thousand pounds have entered Albania, the free market dealers showed no surprise at all, and said that every year, summer is the period when they have to deal with persons who try to exchange forged money. “The 20-pound bill always comes from abroad, because it is very difficult to produce it in our country. Even in many other European countries, this false banknote has become a problem, since it has made hundreds of victims”, they add.
According to the Tirana Police, during the first three months of 2013, the police have carried out two operations to eliminate the counterfeit money in the capital, where the police has found and destroyed two bases used for the production of forged Albanian banknotes and Euros.
“During the last two years, we have carried out in Tirana a number of operations, and at the end have seized thousands of false banknotes. However, we do not have information about structured groups that operate in the falsification business”, – Arjan Hoxha, Head of the Department for Combating Economic Crime at the Tirana State Police, stated.
According to Bryan Percival, Chief Inspector in Thames Valley Police, which is located southeast of Great Britain, regardless of the forgery of 20-pound notes, there are three ways to distinguish the false ones: The first distinguishing mark is the middle line, which, if false, is interrupted, if original, is straight and more distinct; the second is the inscription “England”, which if put under light, should feature four security elements, which are missing in the forged money; and third, if you write with a marker on the banknote and it keeps its original color, it means it is original, otherwise, it is false.
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