HomeNewsBriefCounterfeit Money Trade Thrives in Brazil Amid Pandemic
BRIEF

Counterfeit Money Trade Thrives in Brazil Amid Pandemic

BRAZIL / 7 JAN 2021 BY ISAAC NORRIS EN

Brazil has dismantled several large, sophisticated counterfeit cash rings in recent months, indicating that criminal groups with the technological savvy to print fake banknotes are seizing on the economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.

In December, Brazilian websites were found selling fake notes of 50, 100 and 200 reais ($10, $20 and $40), according to an investigation by TecMundo. The websites, which promoted the fake currency as a way to “increase your income,” touted that the counterfeiters had “nine years of experience” and promised that the notes would stand up to counterfeit pen and ultraviolet light testing. The cybercriminals even advertised their services through Google.

Earlier, in November, São Paulo police dismantled a counterfeiting network that had put over 10 million reais (just under $2 million) of counterfeit bills in circulation, UOL reported. Police seized some 500,000 reais (about $100,000) in fake bills during the operation.

SEE ALSO: Rising Dollar, Venezuela Crisis Fuel Colombia’s Counterfeit Currency Trade

The November operation followed a spate of earlier ones throughout Brazil. In early July, federal police shut down a large clandestine counterfeit money shop in São Paulo, confiscating 77,980 fake banknotes that amounted to more than 2 million reais ($400,000), according to a government press release.

A July raid took out a counterfeiting facility in Rio Grande do Sul. And in September, police broke up a counterfeit money operation that had produced over 10 million reais ($2 million) in Minas Gerais.

Brazil’s counterfeit money trade is by no means a new phenomenon. In 2019, Brazilian authorities seized 440,000 fake notes, totaling more than 27 million reais ($5 million), Estadão reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

For criminal groups seeking out new sources of income — particularly as drug trafficking and human trafficking have been severely disrupted by the pandemic — the counterfeit money trade is a relatively low-risk enterprise that offers big profits.

Federal police seized more counterfeit money from January to July 2020 than in all of 2019, according to a Domingo Espetacular report.

One of the country’s leading anti-counterfeiting organizations, the Brazilian Association to Combat Counterfeiting (ABCF – Associação Brasileira de Combate à Falsificação), works with authorities to help identify and seize counterfeit money. The director, Rodolpho Ramazzini, told Brazil news organization R7 in June that sales of counterfeit money had increased by about 20 percent during the pandemic.

SEE ALSO: Peru Makes Largest-Ever Bust of Counterfeit Dollars

One criminal network was selling between 4,000 and 10,000 fake banknotes every week, charging customers about 10 percent of the bill’s face value, according to Domingo Espetacular, which cited exclusive WhatsApp messages from a police investigation into a clandestine shop in Rio Grande do Sul.

Counterfeiters use sophisticated equipment and methods to produce banknotes virtually indistinguishable from real money. In one recent operation in Rio Grande do Sul, police seized offset printers, high-quality paper, special ink and even a machine used to forge watermarks and other security features.

To help citizens identify fake currency, the Central Bank of Brazil launched a smartphone application named Brazilian Money in 2014. Users take a photo of a banknote to verify the bill’s key security features are in order.

Brazil is not the only country in Latin America where counterfeit banknotes are a boon to criminal groups. Peru and Colombia are among the countries that have seen a proliferation in the counterfeiting of US dollars. Counterfeiting in these countries has also been stoked by the demand for dollars in Venezuela, where the dollar has become the defacto currency after the Venezuelan bolívar was rendered practically worthless.

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

BRAZIL / 28 OCT 2014

A spatial analysis of homicides across Brazil shows intense clusters of violence around the country's smaller cities and in rural…

ELITES AND CRIME / 7 JAN 2014

Former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo stands accused of money laundering and conspiracy, the third Peruvian president in recent history to…

CYBERCRIME / 8 FEB 2011

Organized criminals long ago diversified their portfolios, entering lucrative side businesses such as piracy. But groups like the Familia Michoacana…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …