Austrians Probe $500 Million Counterfeiting Case | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.01.2009
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Austrians Probe $500 Million Counterfeiting Case

Austrian authorities are investigating two German men for attempting to pass a total of about $500 million in counterfeit certificates and $1-million US banknotes, the affected bank and prosecutors said Friday, Jan. 23.

Hands holding dollars and euros

The men reportedly wanted to exchange counterfeit dollars for euros

The two men raised suspicions in a branch of Volksbank Vorarlberg in Kleinwalsertal on Wednesday when they tried to place the obviously forged banknotes as well as silver warrants at the bank, asking to convert the deposits into euros.

"I would say they were amateurish," Arno Doern, the bank's legal department head, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We are not a major bank that deals which such amounts on a daily basis."

In total, the men from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, aged 51 and 45, attempted to deposit $202 million at the bank, according to prosecutor Heinz Rusch.

After police took the suspects into custody, the two men were found to be carrying a total of $487 million in counterfeit currency, as well as silver warrants worth $3 million.

The face of the first US president, George Washington, which adorns genuine $1 banknotes, was printed on the $1-million counterfeits.

Claims didn't add up

In addition, police found a deposit certificate for 1,000 silver warrants worth $1 million each.

The Germans claimed that they had been acting on behalf of a Dutch foreign currency trader. Investigators will now try to determine the origin of the fake money and warrants, according to the local daily Vorarlberger Nachrichten.

The banks in the valley near the German border are popular with Germans because of Austria's strict banking secrecy law and lower financial taxes.

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