Following a painstaking investigation lasting over 18 months, Argentina’s Federal Police have busted a counterfeit ring forging pesos and dollars for parallel markets on a massive scale.
The group, which police said produced fake bills of “high quality,” had a distribution network set up, including printing-presses in other countries. A total of 16 people, including two Uruguayans and a Peruvian (the latter with an Interpol red alert international arrest warrant), are being held in custody, police sources said.
The hardest part was identifying the locations where the international organisation counterfeited money on a grand scale. Once the police had obtained that information, the courts ordered a series of raids which served to break up the gang, which counted on a distribution network in both Argentina and neighbouring countries.
In total, the Federal Police’s detective squad investigating counterfeit crimes detained 16 suspected gang members, seizing US$150,000, 780,000 pesos and 1,600 Brazilian reais in forged banknotes, as well as a considerable number of genuine bills (US$14,600, 2,016,430 Argentine pesos and 30,580 Uruguayan pesos), a sign of the volume of money in the network’s grip.
The detectives managed to establish that the organisation included financiers, distributors and fences who managed the introduction of the falsified banknotes into the legal financial circuit. They had at least two clandestine printing presses in Argentina – one in the Buenos Aires Province town of 9 de Julio, more than 250 kilometres west of the Federal Capital, and another in Rosario, Santa Fe Province.
Police said the most surprising detail of the operation was that the organisation forged the latest version of the greenback, which features a blue ribbon for security. According to the sources, not all the false banknotes seized in the raid were printed in Argentina.
“We also found banknotes forged abroad,” confirmed Inspector Edgardo Álvarez, who heads the Federal Police squad investigating counterfeit crimes.
Highlighting that the organisations swap money between themselves in order to introduce it into different markets, Álvarez said “it’s just like drug-trafficking.”
“For example, they call a ‘litre’ every sum of a false US$100,000 which enters our country via the frontiers in various ways,” he added. “These counterfeiters operate in truly global networks.”
National Security Secretary Eduardo Villalba told the press: “This investigation has been going on for a long time, starting in late 2019 while on August 11 there were 20 raids in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe and the Federal Capital permitting the arrest of 16 people dedicated to forging money.”
The Peruvian is believed to be one of the ringleaders of the organisation, with not only proven experience in forging money but also an arrest some years ago. “Peru is one of the places where they forge most,” said the police inspector at a press conference in the Mounted Police Corps headquarters.
Álvarez highlighted the issue of the blue-ribbon greenbacks, which he recognised had been forged in Argentina.
“The new series is not much known and that favours people falling victim to these true economic criminals,” he explained.
This organisation falsified pesos as well as dollars, also on a grand scale, said the inspector.
Another of the detained suspects, who police said had experience in fraud, is believed to be one of the main distributors, in charge of introducing the forged banknotes into the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area (AMBA).
He had previously been arrested five years ago, but had subsequently been released, said the police.