France Sees Surge in Fake Euro Notes

Most of the bogus paper is originating in Italy, Colombia, and Eastern Europe. Counterfeiters have cracked a high-tech security code

France has recorded the highest number of counterfeit euro banknotes, originating mostly from eastern Europe, Italy and Colombia.

In the first half of 2006, 30 percent of the total number of 300,000 fake euro notes withdrawn from circulation were discovered in France, UK daily The Independent reports.

French police say European counterfeiters seem to have cracked the sophisticated security code used for euro bank notes.

The introduction of the euro in 2002 originally led to a fall in fake notes, but the level of bogus banknotes put into circulation in Europe - some 600,000 annually - has now returned to pre-euro levels.

Police indicated that some counterfeiters produce crude euro notes using fairly cheap photocopying machines, with some medium-sized operations capable of producing up to 100,000 notes a year.

The European Central Bank reported last month that the �20 note is the most commonly counterfeited banknote, leapfrogging the �50 note in popularity terms at the end of 2005.

The two denominations accounted for 80 percent of all fake notes found in circulation in the first half of this year, with bogus �100 notes also going up by 12 percent.

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