The counterfeit money crime is almost as old as the money itself. Thus, the history of money is also at the same time the history of countless attempts to counterfeit means of payment. At the same time, cash is not only a carrier of value in payment transactions. Banknotes and coins also reflect a nation’s economic strength, political cohesiveness and cultural or religious orientation.

Therefore, combating counterfeit currency crime is not only about protecting money from counterfeiting, but also about protecting the security of the currency and the values associated with money as a means of payment.

Criminal liability

The high need for protection of these legal assets has always been reflected in the punishability of counterfeiting money. The production and distribution of counterfeit money is punishable worldwide – for all currencies and regardless of the location of the crime.

(1) A penalty of imprisonment of not less than one year shall be imposed on anyone who

1. counterfeit money with the intent that it be put into circulation as genuine or that such putting into circulation be made possible, or counterfeit money with this intent in such a way as to create the appearance of a higher value,

2. procures or hawkers counterfeit money with this intent, or

3. Falsified money that he has counterfeited, falsified, or obtained under the conditions of numbers 1 or 2 is marketed as genuine.

(2) If the offender acts commercially or as a member of a gang that has joined together for the continued commission of counterfeiting, the penalty shall be imprisonment for not less than two years.

(3) In the less serious cases referred to in paragraph (1), imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and in the less serious cases referred to in paragraph (2), imprisonment for a term of one year to ten years shall be imposed.

Law enforcement

In Germany, the fight against the "internationally organized production and distribution of counterfeit money, which requires fact-finding abroad" falls comes within the original law enforcement jurisdiction of the Federal Criminal Police Office (§ 4 BKAG ).

Original or counterfeit?

At first glance, many a counterfeit is not directly recognizable as such. This is partly because organized counterfeiters also imitate security features such as holograms, watermarks, and microprinting of confusable quality.

For the production of supposedly "genuine" money, however, the counterfeiter lacks the means, such as original banknote paper, special printing ink and banknote printing machines. That’s why fakes can’t reach the quality of the original.

Moreover, the counterfeiter usually does not try to produce a perfect imitation of the real money with the imitation of all security features. According to a "cost-benefit principle he usually only makes the effort he considers necessary to be able to put the counterfeit in question into circulation. Due to the increased attention paid to high denominations, these are usually counterfeited in better quality than small denominations.

With due attention and by checking several security features, most banknote counterfeits can be recognized even by laymen.

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