Increase in fake banknotes, but quality is poor
A spate of poor-quality fake banknotes has pushed the number of counterfeit cash found in the city in the first nine months of this year well above last year's total, police said.
Police yesterday arrested a taxi driver and his girlfriend and seized 113 fake HK$100 and HK$50 notes with a face value of HK$5,900.
They were among 2,983 fake banknotes in different denominations confiscated up to Wednesday, compared to 1,892 last year and 1,717 in 2009. The haul included 1,370 fake HK$100 notes, up from 500 last year.
All the 1,370 counterfeit HK$100 banknotes were made using inkjet printers and could be easily identified as fake by the public, police said.
Despite the increase in counterfeit cash, Chief Inspector Yu Hoi-kwan of the commercial crime bureau said the seizures in recent years remained low, compared to the peak of 16,953 fake banknotes in 2000.
The night-shift driver and his girlfriend were arrested after three passengers - two men and a woman - complained early this month about receiving fake HK$50 notes as part of their change.
All had received the notes after taking a taxi at night on Hong Kong Island.
Superintendent Paul Renouf of the commercial crime bureau said after identifying the driver that police arrested him when he picked up his cab in Sai Wan Ho at about 4.30pm on Wednesday and seized five fake HK$100 notes and 20 HK$50 notes from him.
At his home in Ngau Tau Kok, police found 60 fake HK$50 notes and 28 semi-finished HK$50 notes. They also seized a printer and other equipment. The girlfriend was arrested at the flat.
All the fake banknotes had been copied from six genuine HSBC-issued HK$50 notes and one genuine HSBC-issued HK$100 note.
Senior Inspector Fung Kin-man said an initial investigation indicated that the driver had been using counterfeit notes for about a month, giving them to passengers in areas with poor lighting.
'It is the first time counterfeit notes have been distributed by this method in recent years,' he said.
Fung said the driver appeared to have acted alone and there was no syndicate behind him. Police are investigating how many fake notes had been circulated.
Last night the man was charged with one count of possessing counterfeit notes. He will appear in Eastern Court today. The woman was released on a bail.
Yu warned that the production, possession and circulation of counterfeit notes were serious offences carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years' jail.
'Police are capable and confident of tackling such offences,' Yu said.
In July, police arrested two men and seized more than 2,000 fake and unfinished banknotes, which faded when rubbed.