By CoinWeek News Staff….
Sicilian investigators and Italian police seized 306,000 coins worth €556,000 (almost US$693,000) of counterfeit 1- and 2-euro coins from a shipping container in the southern port city of Naples on Friday, December 12. According to Palermo prosecutor Calogero Ferrara, the seizure of the counterfeit coins is the largest in the 12-year history of circulating Eurozone coinage.
The investigation is referred to as the “Shanghai Money” case, since the fraudulent coins were allegedly minted in Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China.
The Carabinieri, which serve as both military and civilian police, arrested 12 people–including four Chinese nationals–on charges of conspiracy to produce and distribute counterfeit money.
“Now it is up to the Chinese government to lend us a hand,” said Francesco Ferace, head of the Carabinieri’s anti-counterfeiting unit.
Giuseppe De Riggi, commanding officer of the Carabinieri in Palermo, Italy said that the dump of 2-euro fakes alone was one of the biggest ever attempted in Europe. Prosecutor Ferrara also said that the 2-eurot pieces were visually indistinguishable from the genuine article.
In addition, Palermo deputy prosecutor Dino Petralia said that the counterfeits were good enough to fool vending and change machines, and other devices that accept coins.
It is believed that the shipment was timed to take advantage of the holiday increase in consumer activity. Investigators discovered the scheme when, during the investigation of the murder of a Sicilian businessman associated with the prostitution of minors, police noticed that the children were receiving fake 1- and 2-euro coins as payment.