Police are investigating the possible existence of a counterfeit-money syndicate after announcing the seizure of 1,900 fake $100 banknotes already this year. Lau Yuk-kuen, deputy police commissioner, said the counterfeit notes were mostly made by inkjet photocopying machines, and warned the public to stay alert. 'The banknotes made in this way are very crude,' he said yesterday. 'If you look at and touch them carefully, you can find they're counterfeit banknotes. 'I call on the public to be careful, especially during the Chinese New Year when there is a greater flow of cash.' The police did not say how many counterfeit notes of other denominations they had found, but the force said 12,542 counterfeit notes of various values were found last year, compared with 16,953 in 2000. Mr Lau said they would examine each of the 1,900 fakes to ascertain if there was a syndicate at work. He also warned that making and using counterfeit banknotes carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail. Mr Lau spoke out as two fake $100 banknotes were seized in two Jockey Club off-course betting centres in Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok, and Yuk Wah Crescent, Tsz Wan Shan, yesterday. Police said two men were arrested and were helping with their inquiries last night. Last Saturday, 10 counterfeit banknotes were tendered at various Jockey Club off-course betting centres, with all being $100 banknotes, bar one $20 note. Nine people are assisting police investigations into these incidents. On January 27, 14 fake $100 banknotes were seized at off-course betting centres in the New Territories and Kowloon. Eleven people were questioned by police and later released unconditionally. Officers said most of those questioned claimed they obtained the fakes from hawkers. Mr Lau yesterday also revealed police would exchange information with mainland authorities about a kidnapping case in Tsim Sha Tsui last week, when officers were involved in a shoot-out with two kidnappers who allegedly had abducted businessman So Cha-tong, 80. Mainlander Lai Kong-hung, 26, was arrested and later charged with offences relating to the alleged kidnapping. A pistol was found abandoned at the scene. A second gun was found on Tuesday in Mongkok after the Hong Kong girlfriend of Lai was arrested. She has also been charged with offences relating to the alleged kidnapping. The second gunman, who is still at large, is believed to be a mainlander. 'The two guns involved have been recovered. We'll examine the guns and contact the mainland authorities about the result,' Mr Lau said. 'We'll also exchange information with the mainland about the culprit still at large. We'll ask the mainland authorities to provide assistance.'