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A New Currency Brings Fears of Widespread Forgery

Dutch Euros Snatched as Forgers Get to Work on New Currency

Ian Black, The Guardian (liberal), London, England, Nov. 15, 2001.

Europe's countdown to a single currency has hit a new snag with the first big theft of euros in the Netherlands, just six weeks before billions of new banknotes and coins go into circulation.

Dutch officials confirmed that €250,000 (£152,000) was snatched by a masked man from a bank in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, shortly after a consignment was delivered on Nov. 12.

The robbery followed the arrest of a German man for allegedly stealing €1.2m from his own armored truck: the biggest known theft so far of the new currency. That was probably the origin of the €5 note used to pay for two bags of fish bait in an angling equipment shop in Venlo, in the Netherlands, at the end of September.

Five previous robberies in recent months, two in Italy and three in Germany, have also been recorded.

"Mini kits" of the new coins are to be sold from the middle of next month [December] in the 12 eurozone countries, but despite protests by consumer groups, the European central bank has refused to release any banknotes to the general public before they become legal tender on January 1.

Europol, the EU's fledgling police agency, has warned that counterfeiters may be equipping themselves to print fake euro notes to take advantage of people's unfamiliarity with them.
It says a run on specialised ink and paper seems to indicate that international criminal groups are gearing up for their own launch.

Some fakes have turned up but none has been professional enough to pass for the real thing, which is replete with sophisticated security features.

The good news is that most Europeans at least are aware that the euro is coming: A European Commission poll published on Monday found only 6 percent of eurozone citizens do not know the exact date when the new banknotes and coins come into use.

Nostalgia for disappearing national currencies is growing. An Italian group called the Third Millennium Celebrations Committee plans to build a giant lira monument out of the old coins.
Opinion polls suggest that most Italians are pleased about the birth of the euro, though a parliamentary report published yesterday showed that many were still bewildered by it, and that about half the country would have difficulty giving the conversion rate: one euro to 1,936.27 lire.

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