Although the use of digital currency is on the rise, European law enforcement is still working to keep dark web counterfeit currency in check. The growing availability of counterfeit tools on the dark web means that counterfeit networks are cropping up more frequently.
A bust that happened earlier in April saw Spanish police takedown the “most active” euro counterfeit organization that had ever been discovered in Spain.
Now, what is being referred to as Europe’s second-largest dark web counterfeit currency network, was taken down last September by Portuguese police with the support of Europol. The police operation was code-named “Deep Money.”
This is part of a widespread attempt by European officials to crack down on the proliferation of fake currency notes that have been spreading.
The counterfeit operation based out of Portugal had only been producing currency for two years, but during that time they produced over 26,000 fraudulent banknotes totaling a worth more than one million euros. The reach of the currency was also widespread, having been found in circulation not only in Portugal but in France, Germany, and Spain as well.
As part of the investigation, eight separate raids were carried out on residential and business addresses. A total of 1,833 counterfeit banknotes were confiscated with a combined face value of almost seventy thousand euros.
Police also seized equipment and materials used in the production of the counterfeit currency, including computers, printers, security paper with security thread incorporation, holographic stickers, ultraviolet inks, and cartridges.
Five people were arrested in total by Portugal’s police force, Polícia Judiciária. This included the suspected kingpin who was extradited from Colombia by officials.
Europol said in a released statement, “Europol supported this operation since the beginning with counterfeit and dark web experts. Several meetings were held at Europol, and intelligence notification packages were issued as well.”
In order to help ensure that Portuguese officials would succeed, Europol also provided analytical and operational support on the day of the raids, with on-the-spot support from an analyst working out of their Mobile Office. They also provided financial support to Portuguese authorities for obtaining the resources and manpower that they would need.
The arrests came just days after Interpol held a conference to discuss dark web counterfeit currency, specifically the new methods available to combat it, including security, authentication tools, and monitoring systems.
Dark web counterfeit currency is a problem for the world at large. In the United States alone, it is estimated that seventy million dollars in counterfeit money are in circulation. That ends up translating to approximately 1 note of counterfeit currency for every 10,000 real notes.
Counterfeit currency isn’t the only type of phonies that has officials worrying either. It is estimated that 3.3% of world trade is made up of counterfeit and pirated goods, and that number is only on the rise.
While authorities are getting more aggressive with tackling counterfeit issues, criminals are becoming more equipped to evade detection through the dark web while having more extensive access to counterfeit producing materials.