Number and types of counterfeits

The main task of a National Analysis Centre is to identify, analyse and record counterfeit banknotes and coins brought to Latvijas Banka, thus ensuring and reinforcing the measures that are required for coordinated anti-counterfeiting efforts in the European Union.

In 2021, the National Analysis Centre of Latvijas Banka received 1051 requests to identify banknotes, and in 84 cases it issued an opinion of a competent institution on identification of banknotes at the request of the State Police.

In 2021, 769 counterfeit banknotes and coins (544 counterfeit banknotes and 225 counterfeit coins) were received and identified. In comparison to 2020, the number of counterfeiting cases decreased by 24% (the number of counterfeit euro banknotes by 30% and the number of counterfeit euro coins by 8%). The share of counterfeit euro banknotes and coins was 91% of all counterfeit money identified in the market.

The time for submitting counterfeit euro banknotes and coins to Latvijas Banka for identification after detecting such banknotes and coins increased in comparison to previous years. In 2021, such banknotes and coins were submitted for identification on average within 26 days. One of the reasons that contributed to this increase was the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on cash processing processes. This trend may have a negative impact on the ability of law enforcement bodies to investigate crimes successfully.

Meanwhile, the time required for identification of counterfeit banknotes and coins did not change in comparison to 2020. On average, two days were required to identify and register counterfeit euro banknotes and coins.

Chart 1
Time until the submission of counterfeit banknotes and coins and time for their identification

In 2021, the recent trend in this area continued, i.e. historically, the lowest number of counterfeit euro banknotes and coins in circulation was reached – four counterfeit banknotes and coins per 10 000 inhabitants. This trend correlates with ECB statistical data (Europe also experiences the lowest historic number of counterfeits). It can be explained by 1) increasing popularity of electronic payments among people; 2) fewer trips due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, international travel was limited, and it also affected distribution chains of counterfeit money; 3) implementation of the European (Europol, ECB, EC) long-term policy to ensure anti-counterfeiting measures in cooperation with the competent national institutions that has made it possible to curtail the counterfeiting of notes. This involved mandatory technical measures (e.g. the use of various authentication devices, compliance with the requirements governing processing of banknotes and coins, etc.) that allow people to feel protected in using cash for making payments. Furthermore, cooperation with law enforcement institutions has made it possible to find and close large counterfeiting facilities (in Italy, Bulgaria, etc.) producing counterfeit banknotes and coins. Counterfeit 20 euro and 50 euro banknotes were mostly found in circulation, and their share in the total number of counterfeit euro banknotes was as high as 74%. In approximately 50% of cases, counterfeit banknotes were identified when they were inserted in a cash deposit ATM.

Chart 2
Number of counterfeit banknotes and coins

As to counterfeit euro coins, 2 euro counterfeit coins were mostly identified in circulation. Their share was 85% of all counterfeit euro coins identified in circulation. Meanwhile, the share of 1 euro counterfeit coins was 10%, and the share of 50 cent counterfeit coins did not exceed 5%.

Chart 3
Counterfeit euro banknotes by denomination (%)

Quality of counterfeit banknotes

Most counterfeit banknotes were of bad quality: simple copies of banknotes that did not imitate any security features. Quite often, they even featured an altered design: movie money banknotes with not legal tender, copy, prop copy, be used only for movies or props on them.

Chart 4
Counterfeit banknotes and coins by type of production (share; %)

Meanwhile, high-quality counterfeit banknotes are mostly high denomination banknotes, i.e. 200 and 500 euro banknotes. However, their number has not significantly changed in the course of time.

Number of euro counterfeits in the Baltic States

In 2021, the largest number of counterfeit banknotes was identified in Lithuania, though it was less than 1000 banknotes per year, while counterfeit euro coins were mostly detected in Finland. The smallest number of counterfeit banknotes and coins was found in Estonia.

Chart 5
Number of counterfeit banknotes and coins detected in circulation in the Baltic States (2021)