Fake Money Copies Drug Trade Patterns

By Dialogo
July 01, 2011

Criminal organizations are learning new ways to launder millions of dollars
of drug money profits. One way is by counterfeiting. Today it is easier to create
counterfeit bills and launder them by having several people pass them off to product
and service providers.
Over the past two years, Colombia has been surpassed as the world’s no. 1
distributor of counterfeit currency by Peruvian counterfeit rings that use the same
tactics as drug traffickers. Counterfeiters in South America employ human “mules” to
smuggle their fake bills in luggage. Other tactics include concealing the
counterfeit currency on their bodies, in items like greeting cards, and in packages
sent through the local postal service or via international couriers with hidden fake
bills, reported the National Geographic Channel website. These distribution methods
mimic those used to traffic drugs, and the profits derived from forged currency
approximate $160 billion, according to InSight, a Washington, D.C.- and Bogota-based
project that monitors organized crime in Latin America.
Recent interdiction efforts, reported in the Peruvian newspaper El
Comercio, show the various types of currency being counterfeited in
Peru include bolivianos, Chilean pesos, euros, Peruvian nuevos soles, U.S. dollars,
and Venezuelan bolivares. The fake currency is printed with offset printers, and
primarily sent to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, the United States and
The counterfeit money trade in South America has a parallel history to the
region’s illicit drug trafficking. Colombian criminal networks, which made Colombia
the leading counterfeiting country in South America for decades, use the same routes
as cocaine shipments northward through Central America, according to a 2006 U.S.
Treasury Department report.
Although government interdictions continue to shut down these operations,
tougher laws are needed to prosecute the offenders according to the Lima Bar
Association. “There needs to be more control, and sentences need to be dissuasive.
This is not about having lax laws or applying an iron fist but having a penalty that
is just and fits the crime,” said José Antonio Ñique, president of the Lima Bar
Association in an interview with Time magazine.