Authorities in Peru have confiscated tens of thousands of counterfeit dollars destined for Nigeria, highlighting the use of nations in West Africa as transit points for fake currency as well as drugs.
On May 1, Peruvian customs agency SUNAT seized $88,100 in fake banknotes packaged in gift-wrapped boxes, reported La Republica. SUNAT discovered the boxes in a postal storage unit in Pueblo Libre, a district of capital city Lima, from where they were reportedly going to be sent to the West African nation.
So far this year, Peruvian authorities have confiscated some $500,000 fake dollars destined for African nations, an anonymous SUNAT employee told La Republica.
According to Peru’s anti-drug force (DIRANDRO), much of this money is then sent on to Spain, which is a key point of entry into Europe for counterfeit dollars and euros transited through West Africa. Many of the same West African nations used as drug stopover points are also transit hubs for fake dollars, said officials.
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Peru is currently the world’s most significant producer of fake bills. Over the last decade, authorities have confiscated $103 million in counterfeit dollars manufactured in this country, according to the US Secret Service, nearly half of which were seized in the past three years. In 2012, that body’s spokesman told the BBC that 17 percent of all counterfeit bills circulating in the United States came from Peru.
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West Africa is a long-established and increasingly important transit point for South American cocaine, and Nigerian criminals, particularly, appear to have begun taking on a more prominent role in the trade.
The movement of fake currency through this region is a less heard of phenomenon, though the Africa connection does not appear to be entirely new — in 2012, Peruvian police arrested a man leading a ring that allegedly routed fake dollars through Chile and South Africa into Europe. Nor is Nigerian involvement in the false money trade new — two Nigerians were caught in 2011 with $80 million in counterfeit money in South Africa, though it was not reported where the money came from.
High levels of political instability and corruption make many West African nations prime turf for illicit activity. In addition to moving some 50 tons of cocaine through West Africa each year and forging alliances with domestic criminal groups there, Latin American criminal organizations have sent operatives to live in nations like Guinea-Bissau to coordinate operations themselves. It is possible these same links are used for the trafficking of fake dollars.