Police in Peru have disbanded a criminal organization that manufactured counterfeit dollars for markets in Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and the United States, highlighting efforts by counterfeiters to take advantage of tight currency controls that have spurred thriving black markets.
On November 30, Peru's investigative police, known as the DININCRI by its acronym in Spanish, seized $3.7 million in fake dollars and captured four members of a counterfeit money ring, reported El Nacional. The criminal group allegedly trafficked counterfeit dollars using "mules" -- individuals who transport small quantities of illicit items or substances on their person or in their luggage.
Walter Escalante, the head of the Peruvian investigative police unit that handles fraud, stated that criminal groups typically introduce counterfeit bills into foreign markets by mixing them with real currency, reported AFP.
According to Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, in 2014 Peruvian police have seized close to $18 million counterfeit dollars and 900,000 counterfeit Euros that were destined for the United States. He called this a "record figure" in Peru's fight against fake currency.
InSight Crime Analysis
Criminal groups appear to be taking advantage of tight currency controls in Venezuela and Argentina that have made it difficult for residents to obtain dollars. These restrictions have fostered the development of an unregulated currency market, which likely provides criminal groups with an easy way to introduce counterfeit bills. An official from Peru's investigative police has previously told InSight Crime that Venezuela is a major destination for counterfeit bills produced in Peru, many of which end up in Miami, where Venezuelan businesses and individuals attempt to deposit them.
Peru is one of the world's main producers of fake dollars, and concern over counterfeit bills has prompted the US government to work with Peruvian authorities in anti-counterfeit operations. Since 2012 -- when the US Secret Service estimated that 17 percent of all fake dollars in the United States had been printed in Peru -- the US Embassy in Lima has had a Secret Service agent tasked with tracking down counterfeiters.
SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles
On a regional level, Panama, El Salvador, and Ecuador are also popular destinations for counterfeit dollars, since all of these countries use the US dollar as their official currency. Peruvian counterfeit dollars are also sent to West African nations, which serve as transit points for fake currency shipments bound for Europe.