Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 9th 2013 Contents A22
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 9, 2013
Port of Spain
Phone: 652 3675 / 653 1805 Phone: 665 0416 Phone: 623 0334 Phone: 660 7144
LIMA---The police colonel was
stunned by the skill of the 13-year-
old arrested during a raid on coun-
terfeiters in Lima s gritty outskirts,
how he deftly slid the shiny plastic
security strip through a bogus $100
banknote emblazoned with Benjamin
Franklin s face.
The boy demonstrated his technique
for police after they arrested him on
the street with a sack of $700,000 in
false US dollars and euros that he d
received from a co-conspirator and he
led them to a squat house where he
and others did detail work.
With its meticulous criminal crafts-
men, cheap labour and, by some
accounts, less effective law enforcement,
Peru has in the past two years overtaken
Colombia as the No 1 source of coun-
terfeit US dollars, says the US Secret
Service, protector of the world s most
widely traded currency.
In response, the service opened a
permanent office in Lima last year, only
its fourth in Latin America, and has
since helped Peru s police arrest 50
people on counterfeiting charges.
Over the past decade, $103 million
in fake US dollars "made in Peru" have
been seized---nearly half since 2010,
Peruvian and US officials say. Unlike
most other counterfeiters, who rely on
sophisticated late-model inkjet printers,
the Peruvians generally go a step fur-
ther---finishing each bill by hand.
"It s a very good note," said a Secret
Service officer at the US Embassy.
"Once a note is printed they will
throw five people (on it) and do little
things, little touches that add to the
quality," he said, speaking on condition
he not be further identified for security
Peru became more attractive to coun-
terfeiters as Washington s decade-long
Plan Colombia programme tightened
the screws not just on drug traffickers
in that neighbouring Andean nation
but other criminals as well, he spec-
Counterfeiting in Peru, meanwhile,
"It s much more profitable than
cocaine," said a top investigator on Por-
tocarrero s team, noting another of
Peru s illegal exports.
UN crop estimates suggest Peru has
also overtaken Colombia as the world s
leading cocaine producer. But the inves-
tigator, who spoke on condition of
anonymity for security reasons, said
counterfeiting is a better business since
cocaine production has much higher
overhead and transport and processing
are far more complicated. Criminal
penalties tend to be much higher as
Counterfeiters earn up to $20,000
in real currency for every $100,000 in
false bills they produce after expenses,
the investigator said.
He described the process:
First, design: Software such as Corel
Draw or Microsoft Office is used. Then
comes photolithography, the etching
of metal plates, offset printing and fin-
Finishing is next: A sheet of bills is
lightly coated with varnish. Individual
bills, typically 12, are then cut from the
Security strips are inserted with nee-
dles and affixed with glue applied with
medical syringes. (Hold a $20 bill up
to the light and you can see a strip with
"USA TWENTY" printed repeatedly
The bills now pass through what
counterfeiters call an "enmalladora," or
netting machine: Two rollers covered
with coarse fabric to give them a rough
The last step: Sand down the bills
with fine sandpaper.
"It takes four or five days to make
$300,000" in counterfeit notes, the
Well-crafted bills are easily intro-
duced into circulation in the US in retail
stores, where clerks are less vigilant,
the Secret Service agent said.
Only $100 bills get shipped by coun-
terfeiters to the US, while $10s and
$20s are sent to Peru s neighbours, Por-
tocarrero said. Demand is particularly
great in Argentina and Venezuela
because currency controls make the
dollar so coveted and they mostly cir-
culate on the black market.
Counterfeiters employ the methods
of cocaine traffickers to get their product
abroad: Couriers carry notes in false-
bottom suitcases, hide them in hand-
crafts, books, food products. People
have even swallowed bills rolled up in
latex for intestinal journeys.
As far as Peru s police can tell, their
nation s counterfeiting business is run
by domestic syndicates.
Top bands include "Los Nique," for
whom the 13-year-old was working
when he was arrested in 2012. Its boss,
Joel Nique Quispe, was also arrested
last year and sentenced to 12 years in
prison. With good behaviour, he could
be out in four years. The 13-year-old,
who cannot by law be identified because
he is a minor, was released. He was not
charged because of his age.
For all their skill, says Portocarrero,
Peruvian counterfeiters handiwork will
always get tripped up by the infrared
scanner banks used to authenticate
currency. That, he says, owes to their
continued reliance on standard "bond"
paper, the variety used by consumers
that is available in stores and that easily
disintegrates when wet.
If they were able to obtain "rag"
paper, the cloth type used for ban-
knotes, all bets would be off, Porto-
"The day they get it and perfect the
finish a bit more, (their bills) will go
Peru the global
leader in dollar
A police officer inspects an alleged counterfeit $100 US dollar note during a media presentation in Lima, Peru.
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