Magazine „Status“, Serbia: „Printing as necessary“
Magazine „Status“, Serbia: „Printing as necessary“
A participant in the “Investigative Reporting and Organized Crime Program,” implemented by NetNovinar – Center for Investigative Reporting and Media Education, investigated ways in which counterfeit money arrives in Serbia and the complete “mechanisms” of this exclusive, lucrative “cross-border” crime.
Written by: Tamara Vlaškalin, journalist of the Belgrade magazine “Status” Photo: MUP Serbia Archives
PRINTING AS NEEDED
ACCORDING TO THE DATA OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF SERBIA, FROM 1 JANUARY 2001 UNTIL FEBRUARY 2004, TOTAL OF 16.664 OF COUNTERFEIT DINARS ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL BANK OF YUGOSLAVIA AND NATIONAL BANK OF SERBIA IN AMOUNT OF 23.431.550 DINARS (ABOUT 269.330 EUR) WAS DETECTED. NATURALLY, THIS PERTAINS SOLELY TO COUNTERFEIT DOMESTIC CURRENCIES. WITHIN THE TERRITORY OF BELGRADE MOI, DURING THE FIRST NINE MONTHS OF THE LAST YEAR, MOI CONFISCATED EUR 24,040.00. ONLY ONE LAST-YEAR ACTION OF THE POLICE ON THE BORDER CROSSING BATROVCI RESULTED IN DETECTING THE TOTAL OF 139.000 OF COUNTERFEIT EURO BANKNOTES IN FORD MONDEO WITH BULGARIAN REGISTRATION, WHILE IT WAS LEAVING SERBIA. ON THE GROUNDS OF INDIVIDUAL CASES, THE EXTENT OF THE TRANSFER OF COUNTERFEIT NOTES IN SERBIA COULD ONLY BE GUESSED.
The Internet offers advice how to print counterfeit money.
A must-stop for ships from Russia, Ukraine and Germany sailing the waters of the Danube is the Belgrade Port. Through the Belgrade port, by using water passages, it is possible to establish direct flow of goods with all countries around European waterway North Sea-Black Sea. This fact bears all the more relevance for the story to follow. It is a public secret that foreign ships workers steal from their employers in a way that they pour out huge quantities of oil from ships’ tanks and sell it afterwards in ports. “Usually, from 20 to 50 tones is poured out from the ship. Often even more than that. In order to get rid of the stolen oil, they trade with locals at the coast as fast as they can. Most often, oil is being paid for by high quality counterfeit banknotes. People say ‘that no matter how much counterfeit 100 dollar banknotes you have – it’s all gone’. When sellers realize what they were given – it’s usually too late”, a source from Belgrade MOI who wishes to remain anonymous tells us. It is logical that such money is further taken out of the country and a counterfeiter can almost never be found. Never has such criminal report been filed. It is a typical example how criminals and thieves become victims. The last thing these foreign nationals would do is to report a case to the police. Not only have they poured out oil and defrauded their employer out of big money, they have also carried out illicit trade and possess a huge amount of counterfeit money. It is definitely a closed story between actors of buying and selling. So, what remains for them? To become a link of the organized crime chain and indulge in another criminal offence – distribution of counterfeit money.
“In addition to the main form of a criminal offence – money counterfeit, it is illegal to receive counterfeit banknotes as genuine and than, upon realizing that it is counterfeited, to pass it, as well as non-reporting that the counterfeit notes were made or passed. Thus, when a person, after purchasing foreign currency banknotes, establishes that those banknotes are counterfeited while failing to report it, s/he is committing a criminal offence. The Criminal Code envisages a statutory confiscation of counterfeit money”, explains Andrej Veletić, a lawyer.
According to him, this involves another criminal offence. When it concerns reselling of oil in the Belgrade Port, in that case, persons to whom the oil was entrusted for transport are committing a criminal offence of concealing: appropriation of somebody else’s movable property entrusted to him/her in order to realize illicit property gain.
Brana Kulundžić, a media officer in the Belgrade Port, answered our question with a question: “What do I have to do with the Belgrade Port and pouring out of oil?” Her final answer was that she had no comment and that we could not expect her to answer a question posed “by surprise”. Whatever that means.
Money counterfeiting is defined as a form of organized crime because, primarily, it involves several people with strict division of duties, international cooperation of criminal groups, irrespective of nationality. The primary purpose of counterfeiting is: the better the counterfeit banknote – the greater the profit.
“We are not subjected to so many problems with printing as we are with inflow of suchlike money from outside. The quantity of counterfeit money coming from Bulgaria is such that it goes beyond the frames of the region of South-East Europe and represents the problem across the continent. It is interesting that counterfeit money is printed in Bulgaria but not distributed therein. Through Serbia and Croatia, it is further distributed throughout Austria, Germany... Very rarely is the case that we get counterfeit money from west. To a smaller extent, counterfeit notes come from the Republic of Srpska, Hungary...“, says Zoran Stajić from the Ministry of Interior of Serbia.As it is the most difficult to find a sponsor in other forms of crime, thus in the counterfeiting activities it is the most difficult to find an organizer. It is especially so because the network of organizer, perpetrators, co-perpetrators and victims is intertwined and the state frontiers do not constitute a critical barrier. If we try to trace an origin of money which is possibly used to pay the foreign nationals who, in the Belgrade Port sell oil from ships, it may be presumed that it is Bulgarian money. It is certain that the whole Balkans is supplied from Bulgaria. However, it is absolutely certain that there are counterfeiting centres in Serbia where, speaking in jargon, “domestic banknotes” are printed. In respect of Kosovo, the police do not possess official data on development and presence of this form of criminal conduct. However, the police are aware of the story about OVK centres for counterfeiting but it is beyond the competence of our MoI. The lack of information may only indicate the lack of cooperation of UNMIK and our headquarters.Unlike drugs, where it is well known who possesses, who enjoys, who produces or distributes these substances, when it concerns the money counterfeiting, there are almost always people who have no intention to distribute it. The aggravating circumstance is that it is necessary to prove the intention to distribute counterfeit notes.„The Criminal Code addresses several forms of this criminal offence, depending upon the act and money counterfeiting. The basic form of this act is manufacturing of counterfeit money with a purpose of passing it as genuine or altering the genuine money which is punishable with sentence of 2-12 years of imprisonment. The sentence of imprisonment from one to ten years is prescribed for passing of counterfeit money. If, by way of such criminal offence, counterfeit money was produced, altered, passed or collected in amount exceeding a million and five hundred thousand dinars (about EUR 17,200.00), i.e. an appropriate amount in foreign currency, the Criminal Code envisages more strict punishment – a sentence of imprisonment from five to fifteen years “, explains a lawyer Veletić.Given the fact that organized crime includes participation of foreign nationals in the overall process, Zoran Stajić explains to us that they have totally „normal treatment“ and serve sentences for criminal offences committed in Serbia. The statistics show that the majority are Bulgarian nationals. After serving a sentence, they are persecuted from the country. But, it is now a matter of the case-law. Also, the criminal legislation of Serbia is applicable to any person committing a criminal offence on domestic vessel, irrespective of a location of the vessel at the time of commission. Vessel and airplanes belong to the country of registration. Nevertheless, if it concerns the criminal prosecution of foreign nationals and if there is a reciprocity requirement, than it can be ceded to the foreign state.
NJ. V. EVROUnique event that directly affected everyday lives of more than 300 million of people in EURO zone is the introduction of this currency in market, in 2002. For printing Euros, a protected card is made of cotton fibre, which gives them special texture. Several elements of security on the obverse of the counterfeit banknote are made in intaglio print, which provides for very high relief which can be recognized by touch. Other elements of security may be identified when a banknote is perceived through a source of light or under a certain angle. Security markings on euro zone notes are: watermark (motive and marking of value of a banknote are visible when a banknote is perceived through a source of light); security threads (perceived as a darker line on a light); hologram (perceived under a certain angle, symbol of euro and marking of value are visible in hologram); nacreous strip (perceived under a certain angle, a shiny nacreous strip is visible) and optically variable element (changes shades under different angles from purple to olive green).
„Our people abroad, among other things, get into trouble for this criminal offence. I recall a situation when an official of the National Bank tried to ‘palm’ counterfeit dollars in Turkey, while he was on vacation. He spent five months in prison because of one banknote. I think that foreign nationals have much better treatment here. Immediately follow interventions by embassies, diplomacy channels...“, says Zoran Kovačević from the Fraud Department of Belgrade MOI.In order to obtain counterfeit banknotes and be aware of their origin, you must be present in the circles of organized crime. Principally, one already knows who is doing what. This form of criminal conduct confirms that „the businesses are concluded in bars“. There, one can find who can be found where, who goes where and who can “finish” what.„There is almost no possibility for an individual to come to a site such as a market place and buy counterfeit banknotes. You must be present in closed criminal circles and to have an intermediary in order to obtain counterfeit notes. Meaning, printer is printing, but there is usually some kind of a buffer zone between him and a seller. The chain is, to a major part, made of intermediaries. It is very difficult to get to the printer. One has to go through at least two or three intermediaries. Thus, the last person in the chain knows only the one before him. That’s how, actually, one gets to the printing house.Our methodology is to follow the chain until we get to the printing house.However, that chain very often breaks. In one real event, a group tried to palm one thousand banknote on kiosk when a patrolling officers apprehended them. We interviewed them and they had to admit who they got the notes from; namely, they claimed that they were at some party where they were offered counterfeit banknotes“, explains Zoran Kovačević.Money counterfeiting is often carried out as a side activity. Those who sell heroin, almost always have counterfeit money.„In the majority of cases, drug addicts are the ones who distribute counterfeit money. Heroin calls for anything that brings money, thus the most convenient thing is to distribute counterfeit money in kiosks: for exchange or purchase. Counterfeiting is also done by robbers, drug addicts, thieves, gun dealers and can be found in prostitution. There were about ten cases of customers paying prostitutes with counterfeit banknotes.... Quite often it happens that young people proficient in computer technologies are taken by their curiosity to print money “.However, the police experience with counterfeiters is so varied that, according to Zoran Stajić from the Ministry of Interior in Belgrade, they perceive them in as specific, individual cases. In the case of forgery of documents, diplomas and personal identifications, things get different. The links are known there.„If it involves serious criminal clans, several people must participate therein, an organizer and a sponsor, persons familiar with offset print and graphic design, persons familiar with computer print for final processing and persons supplying with paper of a certain quality, colour … It is not coincidental that usually a part of a job is carried out in Bulgaria, while the final processing is done here “, explains Stajić.There is no program for manufacturing of banknotes. The experience shows that standard Photoshop packages and similar are used. Evidently, a problem is not so much in preparation as in printing.
The greatest quantity of counterfeits in Europe comes from Bulgaria
FIFTY-FIFTYA price of counterfeit banknotes is up to 50% of the nominal value of a genuine banknote. For example, for 200 EUR of a quality counterfeit, one pays 100 EUR of a genuine banknote. Price depends upon a „hand“ during the trade. Printer charges from 5 to 15%, and each further link in the chain adds to that. Price of the counterfeit money also depends upon the quantity taken. Bigger the quantity – higher the price. All in all, depending upon the „hand“, the price changes from 5 to 50% of value of the genuine banknote.
„Great software packages have limitations for printing scanned notes. For instance, ‘Adobe’ does not uncover how that system works but you simply get a piece of software which detects whether a picture contains a banknote or not. It can always be solved by cutting out a part of an image and fitting it into the new one or inserting an image from some other software package into Photoshop. By the way, between 1992 and 1995, while the number of counterfeit banknotes which were digitally made increased from 1 to 40%, states the data of American Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It proves that such form of security is not sufficient. It may prevent counterfeiting by average software users. But, if it is possible today to break into an algorithm for coding of visa card, can you imagine what can be done with printing of images “, says Aleksandar Jevtović, an architect and a designer.The Internet is a place where you can find most diverse advice, even for some illegal actions. As there are recipes for making all types of explosives, homemade and other, thus several ways for printing of banknotes is offered. It all depends of whether counterfeiters are beginners or constitute a serious printing lobby. „The first thing that is necessary for this illicit action is an enlarged layout of a banknote. Professional printing scanners are available to everyone today. Other means for enlargement are, I believe, magnifying glass, microscopes, etc. Extremely bad copies are printed on ordinary home printers. The print, as opposed to manufacturing of high quality counterfeits, is not made on ink-jet printer but in offset printing. A fundamental thing is supply with quality paper, design of hologram and imitation of other security systems “, explains Jevtović.
According to the data of the National Bank of Serbia, from 1 January 2001 until February 2004, total of 16.664 of counterfeit Dinars issued by the National Bank of Yugoslavia and National Bank of Serbia in amount of 23.431.550 Dinar (about 269.330 EUR) was detected. Naturally, this pertains solely to counterfeit domestic currencies. Within the territory of Belgrade MOI, during the first nine months of the last year, MOI confiscated EUR 24,040.00. Only one last-year action of the police on the border crossing Batrovci resulted in detecting the total of 139.000 of counterfeit EURO banknotes in Ford Mondeo with Bulgarian registration, while it was leaving Serbia. On the grounds of individual cases, the extent of the transfer of counterfeit notes in Serbia could only be guessed.
You will have as much as you detect. But, it is a matter of police assessment expressed in the so-called black figures. „Grey or black figures are a matter of analytical observation of the problem. When we speak of the period of the first nine months of the last year, 312 criminal reports were filed against 310 persons. Many do not contain elements of the criminal offence. We are conducting an analysis of possibilities according to the type of counterfeit and time and we conclude whether there is something we didn’t discover so it appeared on the market again, whether it was made on the same machines… In this period, around 10.000 counterfeit banknotes were confiscated. Those data are bigger than in the former year for some 20%. However, according to all statistics, years 1999, 2000 and 2003 were the most problematic“, contends Stajić. Places where the counterfeit money is distributed most are shops, kettle markets, petrol stations... Or simply, in kiosks while buying a pack of cigarettes. It is most often done with excuse of rush or that a sick child or a pregnant woman is waiting in a car.„Individual confiscation of counterfeit money is significant when it leads to an organizer. It turned out that the largest counterfeiting centres are in Belgrade, Čačak, Novi Sad and Subotica. It is interesting that Šabac, as a region, is well known in terms of all types of counterfeits. Domestic areas where notes are most often distributed are Beograd, Požarevac, Valjevo and all areas where a lot of foreign workers come.“ The evidence that a common language of criminals is solely money is one of the biggest cases of money counterfeiting in our region. In Čačak, a Croat-Serbian counterfeiting lobby was defeated.„This case proves cooperation between Croatia and Serbia. In a private house in Čačak, we discovered a printing house where a group counterfeited huge quantities of money. Machines were transported from Croatia. The group ‘fell’ there, so we took over the case “, alleges Zoran Stajić.Neighbouring Croatia warns about rise in 20% of counterfeit notes. According to the data of the Croatian National Bank, notes were counterfeited in 98% of cases by scanning and printing on home printer. Critical spots in Croatia where the counterfeit notes are most often distributed are payment and trade places, betting shops, payment places for national lottery...When it concerns counterfeiting of money, one sole rule applies: it wouldn’t be counterfeited if it wasn’t worth. That’s probably the reason why counterfeiters are most inspired by EURO. Because it is taking over Europe. All stories about this „activity“ end with bleak press releases, despite the fact that organized crime of money counterfeiting adds to instability of the region. Because, for many, money is the only language they speak.Even if false.
SUPER DOLLAREven the official exchange offices could not have recognized super dollar at some point. The word is that at least 5-6 billon of such money is present throughout the world. There is a suspicion that Americans themselves are producing it. Difference is so minor, in only three details, hence it takes at least five hours of inspection by experts in order to prove it counterfeited.In distribution of counterfeit banknotes, there are always those who do that without intention
DINAR AND ITS DOUBLES
THE NATIONAL BANK OF SERBIA WARNS AGAINST THE FOLLOWING GENERAL FEATURES OF DINAR COUNTERFEITS:
Forged banknotes are usually made by colour copiers or computer colour printers, and their dimensions differ from those of the originals.Composition, weight and thickness of paper are non-complying and the paper has none of the security features embedded in its body.Banknotes are counterfeited by use of water-dissolvable colours, in shades similar to those on original notes.Printing clearness and characteristics deviate substantially from the original, and numerous spots of various shades and colours may be noticed on the white zone on both obverse and reverse of the forgery.Counterfeits do not contain micro-text printing, as one of the main security features, or it is blurry or illegible.Paper surface of faked notes is smooth, and coarse texture that is produced only by intaglio printing cannot be identified by touch.
You can see the story published in magazine “Status” here.