The EU executive has stepped up its fight against counterfeited euro notes by proposing a minimum jail sentence for large-scale forgery. The move is viewed as an attempt to harmonize penalties in the 27-member bloc.
Criminals who produce or distribute counterfeit euro currency on a large scale should face prison terms of at least six months, the European Commission proposed in Brussels on Tuesday.
"It's time we close regulatory loopholes to put a stop to counterfeiting across the EU," Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement. "Those responsible must not go unpunished.
The move came in response to penalties currently varying significantly in the bloc's 27 member states. There are no minimum sanctions in Britain, France, Sweden and a number of other nations, while Greece and Luxembourg foresee minimum sentences of 10 years.
If implemented, the Commission's proposals would tighten rules particularly in countries like Bulgaria, identified by EU policing agency Europol as one of the foremost countries for euro forgery.
The draft proposals will still have to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament to become law.
"A currency shared by 330 million people is an attractive target for criminals," EU Anti-Fraud Commissioner Algirdas Semeta commented. "If we don't fight collectively to protect it, nobody else will," he said, pointing also to new security features being introduced in euro banknotes.
According to the EU executive, there are approximately 913 billion euros ($1.2 trillion) worth of euro notes and 16 billion euros of coins in circulation around the world.
hg/hc (dpa, Reuters)