Paper Money

Multi-national force finds millions in fake euro notes

Officials inspect notes taken during an arrest of 63 people suspected of creating counterfeit euro notes.

Images courtesy of Carabinieri.

Naples has been called the fake bank note factory of Europe for at least a decade, responsible according to some reports, for up to 90% of all the counterfeit bank notes in Europe. Arrests reported by Europol on April 8 confirmed the city’s well-deserved reputation.

Sixty-three counterfeiters, one in France and the rest in Italy, were arrested by the Italian Carabinieri and French National Police, with the support of Europol, for making and distributing fake bank notes worth more than six million euros in a joint operation. The Italian organized crime group was mainly based in Naples and was known as the “Napoli Group.” It is alleged that the group was under the control of the Camorra mafia.

At the time of the arrests, the Carabinieri could account for 83 sales transactions, arrested seven couriers, and had possession of 200,000 euros worth of counterfeit 20-, 50-, and 100-euro notes.

Europol considers the output as “characterized by a high level of sophistication.” An analysis by the European Central Bank confirmed the forged security features.

The investigation took slightly more than a year. It was started by Carabinieri anti-counterfeiting investigators in January 2023 with the support of Europol and the objective of dismantling the crime group. Although the group was most active in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, it sold its fake notes across Europe.

Europol, in its announcement of the arrests, said that it facilitated the information exchange and financed and coordinated several operational activities. The agency also provided analytical support to identify countries where the notes were distributed. On the day of the latest arrests, it deployed an expert to Italy to provide technical support and cross-check the operational information against Europol’s databases and the European Central Bank’s systems.

Ireland’s Sunday World mentioned in its report that the counterfeiters operated standard office hours, opening for business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week, and to 1 p.m. on Sundays. The 50-euro notes were called “Maradonas,” in honor of the Naples soccer team’s famous Argentinian striker Diego Maradona, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

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