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German police seize $100 million in US-bound fake bills

April 5, 2024

Investigators in Germany have confiscated counterfeit US dollar bills, apparently being shipped on a mass scale. The fake notes are believed to have been in transit from Turkey to the United States.

Several modern hundred us dollar bills, curved upward
Bundesbank and the US authorities say so-called "prop copies" can be confused with real moneyImage: La Nacion/ZUMA/picture alliance

Police in the northern German port city of Kiel on Friday said they had discovered counterfeit cash worth more than $103 million.

Officials think the haul of low-quality forgeries was part of a wider shipment operation for falsified bills from Turkey, through Germany, to the United States

How did police find the counterfeit notes?

Investigators tracked the company locations of a suspect after US security authorities tipped off German federal police.

State police in Schleswig-Holstein said they conducted "extensive searches" of an apartment and two company addresses, in both Schleswig-Holstein and neighboring Hamburg.

Officers discovered and seized four pallets containing a total of 75 boxes of counterfeit US dollars.

Investigators say they believe the banknotes came from a wholesaler from Turkey. The trader allegedly used one of the accused's export companies in the Schleswig-Holstein town of Jübek as an interim storage facility for onward transport to the US.

A 42-year-old suspect, who has until now not been in custody due to a lack of evidence, is being investigated over counterfeiting charges. He is the managing director of two export firms and is suspected of having previously exported forged money across the Atlantic. 

How realistic are the fakes?

The counterfeits, also known as "prop copies" or "movie money," are not particularly convincing and can be recognized as fakes upon closer inspection.

However, they have been classified by Germany's central Bundesbank and US authorities as likely to be confused with real money in payment transactions.

Both the production and procurement as well as the placing on the market of such fake bills constitute criminal offenses.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.