Authorities in Bolivia have broken up a criminal operation dedicated to producing false local currency, in a case which highlights the spread of counterfeiting and the migration of criminal experts.
Five individuals were arrested following a six month investigation in the city of El Alto by the country's Special Anti-Crime Force (FELCC) which found the enterprise in possession of sophisticated equipment and paper "very similar" to that used for Bolivian bank notes. The group were apparently producing 100, 50 and 20 boliviano notes -- worth approximately $14, $7 and $3 each -- and selling them in bulk for one boliviano ($0.14) each, reported La Razon.
The group was allegedly led by a Peruvian, who remains at large, and sold the money to a woman who travelled monthly from the southeastern city of Santa Cruz to collect the notes. The investigation began after a complaint was lodged by the Central Bank of Bolivia, reported El Diario.
Earlier this year, a counterfeiting operation producing US dollars and bolivianos was uncovered in the central city of Cochabamba.
InSight Crime Analysis
Colombia has traditionally been the region's major source of false currency and continues to be a key producer, with almost $6 million recovered in a single haul and two counterfeit euro operations uncovered last year
However, that dynamic has begun to change and Peru has emerged as the region's primary producer of false dollars. According to a report last year, 17 percent of the counterfeit dollars in the United States originate in Peru. It is therefore no surprise that a Peruvian may be leading a Bolivian counterfeiting operation. Dollarization in Ecuador and Panama, as well as the black market in Venezuela, has driven the trade, with a case this year highlighting the flow of fake dollars between Peru and Ecuador.
While Bolivia is not considered a major source of fake money, this case and the Cochabamba group demonstrate that it does play a part in the trade. The fact that the El Alto organization was selling to someone based in Santa Cruz, where transnational drug trafficking presence is on the rise, suggests that there might also be an organized crime element to this case.