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So Iran is now following in the footsteps of North Korea by counterfeiting American currency on a large scale. The North Korean operation was so successful that the United States had to completely redesign our paper currency. It would appear that these efforts to make “supernotes” by North Korea and Iran may have received help from China. A few year ago, this would have been a newsworthy story. With the current state of our fiat currency, it is just added to the stack.
Two suitcases crammed with counterfeit $100 bills were seized in Kuala Lumpur this week from two Iranian traders who flew in to the Malaysian capital on direct flights from Tehran. One contained 153,000 forged dollars and the second 203,000. The traders claimed they were issued the bills by tellers at the Iranian central bank CBI to finance their business transactions and had no notion they had not been dealt genuine greenbacks.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that alert local businessmen spotted the fake currency despite its quality workmanship when they used it to pay for their purchases. According to a Malaysian source, the bills were finely printed on special paper. The initial investigation identified the paper as made in China especially for use in printing currency and a supply recently reached Iran. Malaysian authorities have not identified the Iranian traders who were taken in custody except by their initials – H.M. and A. G.
Kuala Lumpur finds itself in the middle of an international scandal developing around the affair and involving the US, China and Iran. The Iranian embassy is leaning hard on the government to keep it hushed up, threatening to cut off commercial ties if the story is made public, or if the two traders are forced to stay in the country until the legal proceedings take their course.
Tehran fears the embarrassment attending disclosure of its suspected traffic in counterfeit US currency as the April 13 date approaches for important nuclear negotiations with the six world powers. Iran would find itself badly compromised on world financial markets on top of the difficulties it already faces as a result of the tough international financial sanctions clamped down by America and Europe.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources disclose that American undercover agents are in Malaysia trying to get hold of some of the fake bills on order to have them tested in their US laboratories for clues to their provenance. They could then be compared with other forged $100 bills seized last year in several Middle Eastern countries.
On Oct. 2, 2004, the container ship Ever Unique, sailing under a Panamanian flag from Yantai, China, berthed in the Port of Newark. As cranes unloaded the vessel’s shipping containers, which were filled with a variety of commercial goods, dockworkers singled out a container and placed it aboard a flatbed truck, which was driven to a warehouse a few miles away. There, F.B.I. and Secret Service agents, acting as part of a sting operation, gathered around the container and cracked it open. Beneath cardboard boxes containing plastic toys, they found counterfeit $100 bills worth more than $300,000, secreted in false-bottomed compartments.
The counterfeits were nearly flawless. They featured the same high-tech color-shifting ink as genuine American bills and were printed on paper with the same precise composition of fibers. The engraved images were, if anything, finer than those produced by the United StatesBureau of Engraving and Printing. Only when subjected to sophisticated forensic analysis could the bills be confirmed as imitations.
The arrests also prompted a more momentous accusation. After the indictments were released, U.S. government and law-enforcement officials began to say in public something that they had long said in private: the counterfeits were being manufactured not by small-time crooks or even sophisticated criminal cartels but by the government of North Korea. “The North Koreans have denied that they are engaged in the distribution and manufacture of counterfeits, but the evidence is overwhelming that they are,” Daniel Glaser, deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes in the Treasury Department, told me recently. “There’s no question of North Korea’s involvement.”