Portuguese and Spanish police have closed down an illicit money-printing shop during a Europol-backed operation.
Investigators arrested two men and one woman, aged between 21 and 55, who were allegedly behind a conspiracy to produce bogus euro banknotes.
The group is said to have been behind the production of fake euro notes that were widely distributed around Spain and Portugal, but were also found in a number of other countries, including Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Nine houses were raided as part of the operation targeting the gang, which resulted in the seizure of 1,131 fake €20 notes, 401 €50 notes and 49 €500 notes, with a total face value of €67,170.
Fourteen 10,000 francs notes from the Central African Republic were also recovered during the operation.
Along with the counterfeit currency, officers also confiscated a range of equipment related to the production bogus banknotes, such as guillotines, press dies, holographic tape rolls, computers and printers.
Numerous computer files related to the illegal activity were also identified.
Europol, which is the European Union’s Central Office for Combating Euro Counterfeiting, facilitates the exchange of information on bogus currencies and provides expertise, criminal and forensic analysis, training, financial and technical support to law enforcement agencies inside and outside the EU.
According to a statement issued by the European Central Bank (ECB), 363,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2017.
During the second half of 2017, €20 and €50 notes remained the most counterfeited banknotes, accounting for around 85% of all bogus notes detected in the 28-nation bloc.
“The Eurosystem communicates in various ways to help people distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes, as well as to help professional cash handlers ensure that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify and withdraw counterfeits from circulation,” the ECB said.
“The Eurosystem has a duty to safeguard the integrity of the euro banknotes and continue improving banknote technology. The second series of banknotes – the Europa series – is even more secure and is helping to maintain public confidence in the currency.”
The ECB has published guidance advising consumers and businesses how to spot fake euro notes, observing that the paper euros are printed on should feel “crisp and firm”, while higher value notes have a watermark – which becomes visible if the banknote is viewed against light.