Sophisticated banknote print shop dismantled in Italy

Law enforcement arrests and identifies producers and buyers of highly convincing counterfeit euro banknotes

On an action day conducted on 10 June 2024 in Lecce, the Italian Carabinieri arrested a money counterfeiter and dismantled a sophisticated counterfeiting print shop. The raid, which resulted in the seizure of over EUR 100 000 in counterfeit banknotes and over EUR 10 000 in cryptocurrencies, was preceded by the arrests of buyers of large quantities of fake banknotes in Italy and France.

Coordinated by Europol, investigators from law enforcement authorities in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain had been tracking down the criminal group, which consists of two further accused individuals, since February 2024. The forgers are responsible for producing highly convincing counterfeit euro banknotes, which they offered for sale via a popular encrypted messenger service.

During the raid, officers seized the print shop used to counterfeit euro banknotes of various denominations (5, 10, 20 and 50). It was equipped with the tools and materials used to produce highly sophisticated counterfeits. Officers at the scene confiscated printing and cutting machines, as well as raw materials for the banknotes and their security features. Analysis by the European Central Bank confirmed that the forged security features on the banknotes, such as holograms, were of high quality. The Carabinieri also seized the vendors’ electronic devices as well as their online channel used to advertise and sell the fake banknotes.

Payment in cryptocurrencies and delivery via post

Following reports of high-quality counterfeit banknotes in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, Europol supported these countries in developing an intelligence picture. Tracing over 170 sales activities, investigators discovered that buyers could order counterfeit euro notes of various denominations via a dedicated communication channel. The producers would accept payment in cryptocurrencies and arrange for the fake bills to be sent via post.

In addition to facilitating the information exchange, Europol financed and coordinated several operational activities. Europol also provided analytical support to identify countries where the counterfeit currency was distributed. On the action day, a Europol expert was deployed in Italy to provide technical support and cross-check the operational information against Europol’s databases and the systems of the European Central Bank.

Participating countries:

-Austria: Criminal Intelligence Service Austria (Bundeskriminalamt)
-France: National Police (Police Nationale - Office central pour la répression du faux-monnayage (OCRFM))
-Germany: Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt)
-Italy: Carabinieri (Arma dei Carabinieri - Comando Carabinieri Antifalsificazione Monetaria (CCAFM))
-Luxembourg: Grand–Ducale Police (Police Grand-Ducale)
-Spain: National Police (Policía Nacional)

The Special Investigation Commission (SIC) is a multi-function financial intelligence unit (FIU) with judicial status. It is the center piece of Lebanon’s AML/CFT regime, a platform for international cooperation and plays a vital role in safeguarding concerned sectors from illicit proceeds.
The SIC’s tasks include receiving and analyzing suspicious transaction reports (STRs), conducting financial investigations, lifting banking secrecy, freezing accounts and/or transactions and forwarding them to concerned judicial authorities. 
With respect to terrorism and the financing of terrorism, the SIC is also empowered to prevent the use of movable or immovable assets. In addition to sharing ML/TF intelligence with counterparts and coordinating with foreign/local competent authorities on requests of assistance (ROAs), the SIC also proposes AML/CFT regulations and issues regulations and recommendations to concerned parties. 
AML/CFT supervision via risk based compliance examinations that cover banks and other reporting entities to ensure proper implementation of prevailing regulations is also among its tasks.

Law No. 44 criminalizes illicit proceeds that are derived from the following offences:

1. The growing, manufacturing, or illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances according to the Lebanese laws. 
2. The participation in illegal associations with the intention of committing crimes and misdemeanors. 
3. Terrorism, according to the provisions of Lebanese laws. 
4. The financing of terrorism or terrorist acts and any other related activities (travel, organizing, training, recruiting…) or the financing of individuals or terrorist organizations, according to the provisions of Lebanese laws. 
5. Illicit arms trafficking. 
6. Kidnapping, using weapons or any other means. 
7. Insider trading, breach of confidentiality, hindering of auctions, and illegal speculation. 
8. Incitation to debauchery and offence against ethics and public decency by way of organized gangs. 
9. Corruption, including bribery, trading in influence, embezzlement, abuse of functions, abuse of power, and illicit enrichment. 
10. Theft, breach of trust, and embezzlement. 
11. Fraud, including fraudulent bankruptcy. 
12. The counterfeiting of public and private documents and instruments, including checks and credit cards of all types and the counterfeiting of money, stamps and stamped papers. 
13. Smuggling, according to the provisions of the Customs Law. 
14. The counterfeiting of goods and fraudulent trading in counterfeit goods. 
15. Air and maritime piracy. 
16. Trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants. 
17. Sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation of children. 
18. Environmental crimes. 
19. Extortion. 
20. Murder. 
21. Tax evasion, in accordance with the Lebanese laws

Money-laundering operations may occur in any business especially:  
· Banks  
· Other financial institutions (insurance, mutual funds, etc.)  
· Money exchange firms  
· Antique dealers  
· Real estate concerns  
· Jewelry dealers