Paper Money

Drug bust in Switzerland finds fake U.S. $50 notes

Counterfeit $50 U.S. bank notes were part of an illegal operation in Switzerland.

Images courtesy of Swiss Post Online.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland filed an indictment on March 25 in the Federal Criminal Court against two Swiss citizens, a 72-year-old, and a 49-year-old. They are accused of jointly building and operating a highly professional counterfeiting workshop in the canton of Zurich, with the goal of producing and circulating forged 50-dollar U.S. bank notes with a face value of at least $5 million. The 49-year-old suspect is also charged with various marijuana offenses.

It started with a drug bust in November 2022 when the Zurich Cantonal Police inspected a production facility for legal CBD hemp in the canton. While doing that, they also discovered the type of equipment used to make illegal cannabis products. When the police did a deeper search, not only did they find about 300 kilograms of illegal cannabis and processing and cultivation equipment, but also two suspects caught in the act of printing fake U.S. $50 bank notes. They were arrested, and because it was a counterfeiting offense, the case was taken over by the Federal Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The indictment says that the suspects operated a professional counterfeiting workshop since November 2021. The 49-year-old suspect was responsible for funding, with over 130,000 Swiss francs, and operating the workshop. Given his expertise as a trained book- and offset printer, the 72-year-old is accused of ordering various printing machines and other equipment and materials, and for producing the forged notes, with the 49-year-old providing active support. The OAG says their aim was to produce forgeries that were as perfect as possible. They constantly improved the steps in the printing process and the final print run was in progress when the premises was searched in November 2022. Production was not completed because of the search and arrest.

The face value of the semi-finished printed sheets seized was around $8 million. The indictment charges that the 49-year-old was to put the forged bank notes into circulation and his accomplice was to receive at least 500,000 Swiss francs of the laundered proceeds in payment for his participation. The younger of the two suspects would then be able to freely dispose of the remaining proceeds of the crime.

The OAG says it has already secured a legally binding conviction of the two by summary penalty order.

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