More than 300 counterfeit HK$1,000 banknotes have been discovered in a week, prompting police to warn the public to beware of the fakes.
Described by police as better quality than counterfeit notes seized in the past, the fakes could not be easily detected under ultraviolet light, and contained metal threads and watermarks.
The bogus bills also incorporated other security features such as a holographic window thread and concealed denomination, and also had an embossed feel, according to a top counterfeit expert from the Commercial Crime Bureau.
Chief Inspector Michael Yu Shi-cheung said most of the fakes had different serial numbers, with only four or five the same.
'This is the first time we have discovered counterfeit notes embedded with a holographic window thread that is in one piece. In the past, the thread was made up of tiny pieces and stuck on,' Chief Inspector Yu said. He said the forgeries were in the form of the HSBC-issued HK$1,000 notes of the 2000 or 2002 series.
A small number of the fake notes were not spotted when they were deposited with banks.
'We are afraid that some counterfeit banknotes have already been put into circulation,' he said. 'So we would like to alert the public to ... remain cautious while receiving HK$1,000 banknotes.'
He said automatic teller machines did not accept the fakes.
'We believe the counterfeit banknotes were made by the same syndicate and were made outside Hong Kong,' he said.
Last night, seven suspects - from Hong Kong, the mainland and Vietnam - were being held for questioning as the investigation continued.
Police also set up a hotline, 2860 5012, for the public to report any suspicious banknotes.
Police yesterday provided tips on how the public can spot counterfeit notes:
Holographic window thread: on genuine notes, it has clear text and good-quality holographic images showing 'HK1000' and the bauhinia flower pattern, but on counterfeit notes it does not shimmer as much and the text is unclear.
Silver metallic ink on front circular pattern: on genuine notes, it is bright and shiny, but dull on counterfeit bills.
Concealed denomination in lower right side: when viewed horizontally, the numbers '1000' can be seen on genuine notes, but the image is weak or missing on the fakes.