The Euro: Bonanza for Organized Crime
De Borchgrave, Arnaud, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Arnaud de Borchgrave
As the world economy teeters on the brink of what is now being called the first synchronized global downturn since the 1980s, the European Union is about to take a plunge that could either pull it back or push it over. The introduction of a common currency for 12 of the EU's 15 member countries is now only four months away.
The first to seize the opportunity of the biggest financial transaction of all time were transnational crime syndicates. A sizeable amount of their ill-gotten gains in recent years were kept liquid in a variety of national currencies. Banks might have questioned their provenance. To avoid embarrassing questions during the switchover to Euros, they moved these countless billions to the United States to be converted at a slight loss into dollars. European bankers concede privately this was one of the reasons for the dollar's sharp rise last spring and summer vis a vis European currencies. Europol, EU's criminal investigation unit, reckons much of this will flow back into Euros when the new currency is up and running at the stroke of midnight Jan. 1, 2002.
International crime organizations are already busy counterfeiting Euros. Afghan crime bosses in Quetta and Pershawar, respectively the capitals of Pakistan's Baluchistan and Northwest provinces, produce the best dollar counterfeits. They use ultra sophisticated offset printing presses and $50,000 laser scanners-cum-color copying machines to churn out hard-to-detect fakes. They have fooled many experts. Recently these machines began running off Euros, too. Phony $100 bills are common currency in the "stans," the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgistan and Kazakhstan. Russians invariably pay cash for real estate in the choice watering spots of the world. Soon fake Euros will be flooding a wide variety of developing nations where they will be eagerly embraced. Interpol, Europol and Britain's National Criminal Intelligence Service believe the Euro will soon replace the dollar as the crime syndicates' currency of choice. The 500 Euro note ($460) - the new currency's highest denomination - will be Europe's most valuable bill, except for Germany's 1,000 mark note that is about to be retired. One million Euros will fit into a smaller case than the one needed to carry $1 million. Europol believes the big Euro bill will quickly displace the $100 note for transnational crime syndicates. Many of the criminal groups in the flesh trade - some 250,000 underage girls and young women are moved from the former Soviet republics, Eastern Europe and Asia to Western countries every year - prefer to cash-and-carry their profits than to transfer them electronically, which is subject to government snooping.
As Europeans turn in their marks, francs, pesetas, liras and drachmas for Euros, counterfeiters will have a field day as few besides banks will be able to spot the fakes.(spade)
Three years ago, organized crime managed to abscond with a two-pound package that contained the European Central Bank's secret weapon to combat the counterfeiters. …