Counterfeit Money Infiltrates Kurdistan’s Markets

28/02/2012 04:01:00

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan – Some businessmen and owners of currency exchange bureaus say that counterfeit banknotes have flooded the market in the Kurdistan Region.

The president of the Kurdistan Region Bank said, “High-tech machinery is apparently used to make some of the counterfeit money.”

The president of Kurdistan Region Bank, Adham Karim, said they have told various governmental agencies about the problem.

Most of the counterfeit money is Iraqi dinar banknotes, but among them U.S. dollars have been found.

Kurdistan Region’s security forces are trying to tackle the problem. Frsat Dolamari, a security official, told Rudaw, “We have put tight security in place at the borders to stop the smuggling of counterfeit money into Kurdistan.”

Qader Junaid has worked in the Erbil currency exchange market for more than 15 years. He says he has to be very careful in his business to avoid taking counterfeit money.

“There is a new kind of paper in the market now that, when printed into counterfeit bills, is very hard to distinguish from an original bill,” he said. “The people who produce counterfeit money don’t dare to show up in the dollar market themselves, because they know that people here are specialists in recognizing counterfeit from original bills.”

Ghanm Habib, another currency exchange businessman in Erbil, says that most of the counterfeit money in the market is 10,000 dinar bills.

Habib has a collection of fake bills which he says he has received from day-to-day exchange of currency with customers.

Abdulmajid Kirkuki, a specialist in recognizing counterfeit money in Erbil, confirmed Habib’s statement that 10,000 dinar bills make up almost 80 percent of the counterfeit money in Kurdistan and Iraqi markets today.

“Those machines not only won’t recognize counterfeit American dollars, they won’t even recognize counterfeit Iraqi dinars,”

“Those making the money don’t bring the counterfeit bills to us themselves,” he said. “They give it to small grocers, spend it in mini markets, at auto shops and with taxi drivers, and when those people bring the money to us, we find out it’s counterfeit.”

Osman Ali, 54, the owner of a shop at the Shekhalla Market, says he is a real victim of counterfeit money.

“In the past two months, I have received $1,000 of counterfeit money without knowing it.”

Ali says he now has a device to help him detect the fake bills.

But Gibrael Ahmed, the owner of a currency exchange bureau in Erbil, has little faith in devices to detect fake bills.

He maintains the machines are made in China and are of low quality.

“Those machines not only won’t recognize counterfeit American dollars, they won’t even recognize counterfeit Iraqi dinars,” he told Rudaw.

Junaid, owner of Runaki Currency Exchange, uses a Korean-made device.

“It can detect counterfeit euros and dollars,” he said. “But it won’t detect counterfeit Iraqi dinars.”

Authorities in the Kurdistan Region are aware of the counterfeit money in the market and they are trying to finds ways to counter it.

Karim, president of Kurdistan Regional Bank, said, “We know there is counterfeit money in the market; that is why we have made the Ministry of Trade aware of the problem. We have talked to the Iraqi Central Bank as well.”

Karim said the security forces have been asked to keep a close eye on the market for the transaction of fake bills.

Counterfeit money entering the system poses a serious threat to the region’s economy, given the fact that the majority of people are government employees and get paid by the government.

But Karim said it is not easy to pass fake money through government banks.

“We have installed high-tech machines in the banks,” he said. “No bills, especially dollars, are accepted without detailed inspection, because there is a new kind of counterfeit dollars in the market that even the machines don’t detect.”

According to Karim, the current political upheaval in the Middle East is one reason for this new wave of counterfeit money in the markets.

“The situations in the countries neighboring Iraq are unstable; the political situation in Iraq is also unstable,” he said. “The Kurdistan Region is to a degree unstable, and this makes some people and organizations take steps to further destabilize the economy of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.”

Dolamari said that, in the past few years, several people have been detained for dealing in counterfeit money.

“Anyone is in possession of or found counterfeiting money will, according to Iraqi criminal law, be sentenced to 15 years in prison,” Dolamari said.