Efforts by monetary chiefs to calm fears over counterfeit currency have done little to ease concerns, as more fake HK$1,000 notes were discovered yesterday.
Police in the Macau said that a further 22 fake HK$1,000 banknotes had been found in banks and casinos - 18 of them from the Bank of China (BOC), and four of them from HSBC.
While Hong Kong police said that another 10 counterfeit HK$1,000 notes were found at a local bank last night.
Also last night, a 24-year-old man was unconditionally released by Hong Kong police, after being arrested earlier yesterday in Central for being in possession of fake 100 yuan notes.
And a supermarket shopper in Tuen Mun was falsely accused of handling what looked like a fake HK$1,000 bill.
In a sign of erosion in public trust in fake $HK1,000 banknotes, queues formed outside banks yesterday as customers waited to swop the large bills for smaller notes.
A Monetary Authority spokesman said: "We deal with all cases of counterfeit banknotes seriously, and will take actions appropriate for each case having [regarded] the nature and scale of the counterfeiting activities."
More than 120 fake HK$1,000 banknotes, bearing the 2003 HSBC and Bank of China designs, have been seized by police in Macau since the start of last week.
The Monetary Authority and police in Hong Kong tried to quell fears of a widespread problem as a woman was arrested for allegedly attempting to deposit 10 fake notes at a Wing Lung Bank branch in North Point on Friday. The 53-year-old, who was released on bail until January 31, was the first arrest since the latest discovery of counterfeit cash.
On Friday, Howard Lee, executive director of the Monetary Authority's management department, said that there was no need for the public to be "overly worried".
Since 2010, some 2,646 counterfeit HK$1,000 banknotes have been seized.
The spate of rogue HK$1,000 bills echoes the cash crisis of 2007, when 11 million HSBC HK$1,000 banknotes issued in 2000 and 2002 were withdrawn after forged notes were found.
New banknotes with advanced and easy-to-recognise security features began replacing the old series in 2010.
"It's harder for people to make a counterfeit," Hong Kong Note Printing general manager Francis Lau said of the 2010 series notes at the time.
The Monetary Authority said it would ask banks to speed up the process of withdrawing the 2003 series from circulation.
WHAT TO DO
Police have appealed to the public to immediately hand over any suspected counterfeit banknotes to the police or a bank. The police hotline is 2860 5012.
People should not attempt to reuse any suspected counterfeit banknotes. Otherwise, they might be committing the offence of passing counterfeit notes under section 99 of the Crimes Ordinance.