Balkan countries fight spread of counterfeit money

06/05/2013

Analysts warn that counterfeit money is becoming a serious problem in the Balkans.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 06/05/13

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According to EU Central Bank data, in late 2012, about 280,000 counterfeit euros circulated the Balkan markets. [AFP]

Regional countries have increased joint police co-operation and work on passing and implementing legislation to prevent counterfeit banknote circulation, which is a threat to Southeast European economies.

According to analysts, there are several trading routes for counterfeit banknotes, mostly euros and dollars.

"The route of counterfeit money is Bulgaria-Macedonia, Macedonia-Albania and Kosovo-Albania-Macedonia. Part of that money ends up in European and other markets," Svetlana Nikoloska, security faculty professor at State University in Skopje, told SETimes.

Many false banknotes end up in western European markets and beyond, but some remain in circulation in the originating countries.

Stefаn Budzakoski, professor at Skopje's FON University, said that false banknotes cause losses to national economies.

According to EU Central Bank data, about 280,000 counterfeit euros circulated the Balkan markets in 2012.

"Such money violates the economic system, security and the payment system of countries. Circulation of fake money also causes losses for citizens. Until now there were many organised groups in Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Kosovo that released false banknotes in denominations of 50 and 100 euros," Budzakoski said.

He suggested that regional police establish an interstate body like Interpol.

"To uncover top criminal groups [in these activities], a greater international co-operation is required. Balkan countries should consider forming a joint service similar to Interpol and Europol, called Balkanpol that would [regionally] unify information in the fight against serious crime like counterfeit money," Budzakoski said.

In Macedonia, legislation mandates one to 10 years in prison for circulating counterfeit money.

According to the Macedonian ministry of internal affairs, there was an increased detection of counterfeit money crimes in 2012 compared to previous years.

Ivo Kotevski, spokesman for the ministry, said that regional police co-operation remains a priority.

"We have solid co-operation with neighbouring countries' police, not only on counterfeit money, but also information exchange, and in addressing other relevant needs. We strive to deepen this co-operation. Last year we uncovered a five member-organised group that purchased counterfeit euros from a person from Bulgaria, and released them in circulation along with denars in Macedonia," Kotevski said.

National police are obligated by Interpol to exchange information about seized counterfeit money and banknote denominations to track where the money was produced, Nikoloska said.

In co-operation with Europol, Croatian police in early April uncovered a criminal group printing counterfeit money. Its members are suspected of having circulated at least 180,000 counterfeit euros.

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A lab and a printing house were discovered in Tirana earlier this year. Large quantities of counterfeit 1,000 denomination bills were found, and several Albanian citizens were arrested.

In Serbia, according to the National Bank of Serbia data, most counterfeit money was released in dinars in 2012, and the dominant counterfeit foreign currency is the euro.

In co-ordination with the Bulgarian police, Greek police early this year arrested Greek and Bulgarian citizens suspected of counterfeiting 10,000 false two euro banknotes.

Will increased regional co-operation help curb counterfeiting in the Balkans? Tell us in the comments below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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