GBP500,000 note didn't fool bank, fraud case hears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Two Hong Kong men and a mainland man are on trial in London for trying to con the Bank of England out of GBP28 billion (HK$443.34 billion) - nearly 75 per cent of the currency in global circulation - using counterfeit notes.

Mak Ping-shuen, 56, and Chung Chi-kuen, 53, of Hong Kong, and mainlander Chan Kwok-kwong, 55, were part of an alleged syndicate which produced an 'avalanche' of GBP1,000 notes and 360 'special issue' GBP500,000 notes in a failed attempt to defraud the central bank.

But the jury heard that the GBP1,000 note had been out of circulation since 1943 and only 63 remained unaccounted for in 1968.

And GBP500,000 notes have never existed, the jury at the Southwark Crown Court heard.

Officials at the Bank of England were allegedly told by the gang they represented a former top Chinese Nationalist family.

The fraudsters claimed the last remaining family members were centenarians and 'every day counts', prosecutor Martin Evans told the jury.

Mr Evans said: 'This case concerns what the prosecution say was an audacious plan to present counterfeits, pieces of paper that resembled - the prosecution would say only slightly - bank notes in order to persuade the Bank of England to honour the promise all bank notes carry, the promise to 'pay the bearer' the amount shown.'

But apart from the poor quality of the fakes, the gang got the signature of Sir Jasper Quintus Hollam, who was appointed chief cashier of the Bank of England only in 1963, wrong.

Sir Jasper used his first two initials when signing his name but the fraudsters only managed to use his second.

The gang also incorrectly referred to the bank in documents as the 'England Bank'.

'It will not surprise you to know there never was a GBP500,000 note but that there was a GBP1,000 note - it was issued until 1943 when they were withdrawn,' Mr Evans said.

And with only 63 still in circulation in 1968, the bank knew that no one could possibly own 500.

'It will not surprise you to know the Bank of England contacted the City of London Police,' he said.

Police then set up a hidden camera and audio equipment to record the meeting with Bank of England officials.

Other defendants are Malaysian Chin 'Daniel' Lim, 50, Australian lawyer Ross Cowie, 62, and Kim Ming Teo, 41, of London. The alleged offences were committed between December 1 last year and March 27. All men live in London.

The trial is continuing.