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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 3, January 20, 2008, Article 28

NEW ARTICLE DISCUSSES NORTH KOREAN "SUPERNOTE" COUNTERFEITS

[Stephen Pradier noticed a lengthy Kansas City Star
article on the counterfeit $100 "Supernotes".  Here are
some excerpts.  -Editor]

The currency changer, brazenly plying his illegal trade in
the Bank of China lobby, pulled out a thick wad of cash
from around the world and carefully removed a bill.

The 2003 series U.S. $100 bill was a fake, but not just
any fake. It was a “supernote,” a counterfeit so perfect
it’s an international whodunit.

It had come from a North Korean businessman, the changer
said, getting angry looks from his confederates. He stank
of alcohol, but his story was plausible. The impoverished
hermit nation sat just across the Yalu River from Dandong.

Whatever the origin of the bills, “it’s by far the most
sophisticated counterfeiting operation in the world,” said
James Kolbe, a former congressman from Arizona who oversaw
funding for the Secret Service. “We are not certain as to
how this is being done or how it’s happening.”

•At least 19 different versions have been printed, each
corresponding to a tiny change in U.S. engraving plates —
an odd thing for any counterfeiter to do. Also, they show
practically invisible but intriguing additions.

•Stranger yet, the number of supernotes found indicates
that whoever is printing them isn’t doing so in large
quantities. Only $50 million worth of them have been seized
since 1989, an average of $2.8 million per year and not even
enough to pay for the sophisticated equipment and supplies
needed to make them.

Industry experts such as Thomas Ferguson, former director
of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said the supernotes
are so good that they appear to have been made by someone
with access to some government’s printing equipment.

Some experts think North Korea does not have the sophistication
to make the bills; others suspect Iran and others speak of
criminal gangs in Russia or China.

Klaus Bender, the author of Moneymakers: The Secret World
of Banknote Printing, said the phony $100 bill is “not a
fake anymore. It’s an illegal parallel print of a genuine
note.” He claims that the supernotes are of such high quality
and are updated so frequently that they could be produced
only by a U.S. government agency such as the CIA.

As unsubstantiated as the allegation is, there is a
precedent. An expert on the CIA, journalist Tim Weiner,
has written how the agency tried to undermine the Soviet
Union’s economy by counterfeiting its currency.

Banks around the world are still seizing supernotes. The
first one was spotted by a sharp-eyed banker in the
Philippines in 1989.

Whoever is making them seemed to deliberately add minuscule
extra strokes, as if trying to flag the phony bills, the
Swiss noted. For example, at the very tip of the steeple
of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the counterfeit bills
have a line along the left vertical edge that is not on
the real bills.

The supernotes incorporate at least 19 running changes that
the United States has made to its engraving plates since
1989, from the names of Treasury secretaries and treasurers
to blowing up the image of Ben Franklin on the $100 —
something that most counterfeiters can’t or don’t bother
to do.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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