Romanian anti-organized crime prosecutors say they have smashed the country’s biggest ever counterfeit money operation.
The Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism said Wednesday that an unnamed fabricator had been running an organized crime ring since 2014 that churned out false 100 lei bills costing the state 1.7 million lei.
The agency said prosecutors from the National Office for Combating Money Forgery conducted five house searches in Bucharest and the mountain town of Busteni with the aim of smashing the money forgery ring. They seized an unspecified number of fake bills.
Members are suspected of forging the money and putting it into circulation in Romania, being in possession of equipment to forge money, and embezzlement. Specialists at the National Bank of Romania and Europol took part in the investigation.
A statement said that in early 2014, three counterfeiters set up a ring to falsify Romanian 100 lei notes, now worth about 20 euros, and the second largest denomination banknote. They fabricated more than 17,000 notes worth 1.7 million lei, worth about 353,000 euros at today’s value.
The group leader coordinated the other members, procured materials and the necessary equipment for imitating the national currency after which the false notes were introduced into circulation, deceiving an unspecified number of people.
Investigators say it was the biggest money counterfeit scam in Romanian history and one of the biggest scams of plastic banknotes in the world. There were no details available about the identity of the suspects or how investigators closed in on them.
Prosecutors said the ring managed to evade authorities for so long due to the high standard of forgery. The notes bore all the security elements including an iridescent band, and a transparent window, and ink that changed its color under ultraviolet light.
The investigation went under the code name SUPER LEU.
Prosecutors said the operation was so sophisticated that staff in retail outlets and commercial banks were unable to spot the fake notes.
Three people have been taken to the Bucharest headquarters for questioning.