Banknote forgery gang neutralised, police say

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 12:00am

Printer-ready digital images of counterfeit banknotes for six foreign currencies have been seized following the arrest of seven people in an operation that the Commercial Crime Bureau claims 'neutralised a major international syndicate'.

The images, including of British pounds, US dollars, Japanese yen, Kuwaiti dinar and Cuban pesos, were stored in a laptop computer, two hard disks and a memory stick, police said.

'It is the first time that we have seized so many different digital images of counterfeit banknotes in a single operation,' a police source said. 'The images can be used to print bogus banknotes. Security features such as watermarks and security threads would be added later.'

In the operation mounted on Thursday, police also seized 2,400 counterfeit Kuwaiti banknotes, four bogus US banknotes, fake bond notes and other forgeries.

'We have neutralised a major international syndicate that had been actively involved in the production and circulation of counterfeit notes and prevented a large amount of counterfeit notes to be injected into the [currency] system,' Superintendent Stephen Handley of the Commercial Crime Bureau intelligence division said.

Police began to investigate the syndicate after a bank in Central received 300 suspicious Kuwaiti notes and alerted police on Monday.

On Thursday, officers arrested two men as they tried to deposit 2,000 counterfeit Kuwaiti notes at the same bank, and another three men outside the bank. One of the men was found in possession of the two hard disks and a memory stick. Officers later arrested another two in a Kowloon hotel and seized a laptop computer.

The three Australian and four Taiwanese men, aged between 51 and 62, were still being held last night.

The seized notes, all in 20-dinar denominations with a total face value of HK$1.1 million, were confirmed as counterfeit, Mr Handley said.

'The quality of the counterfeit notes is considered to be average.'

He added that the investigation showed that the forgeries were sourced from outside the city.

Superintendent Li Yick-lung of the bureau's counterfeit division said: 'We believe Kuwaiti dinar notes are not well known in Hong Kong so the syndicate tried to use the counterfeit notes and change them into US or Hong Kong dollars.'

Chief Inspector Yu Shi-cheung said the fake notes incorporated security features, but that they were easily identified as forgeries.