Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert has de­nied that fake poly­mer $100 notes are in cir­cu­la­tion.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions posed by Cou­va South Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Rudranath In­dars­ingh on two re­ports of coun­ter­feit bills be­ing passed off as re­al bills in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, Im­bert said he spoke to the head of the Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go (BATT), Karen Dar­basie.

Im­bert said Dar­basie told him there were no fake notes in cir­cu­la­tion.

In­dars­ingh raised the is­sue as an ur­gent ques­tion dur­ing the de­bate on the mo­tion to adopt the Re­port of the Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on the Tax Pack­age dur­ing the 19th sit­ting of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“There has been no state­ment from the BATT that coun­ter­feit poly­mer notes have been in cir­cu­la­tion since De­cem­ber last year, that is mis­in­for­ma­tion…I spoke to the pres­i­dent of BATT my­self and she in­di­cat­ed that no such state­ment has been made to any news­pa­per,” the Fi­nance Min­is­ter said.

On Mon­day, a ven­dor of the Cen­tral Mar­ket in Port of Spain re­port­ed re­ceiv­ing a fake poly­mer note in a wad of re­al $100 bills while sell­ing pro­duce at the mar­ket on Sat­ur­day night. The ven­dor gave the bill to Guardian Me­dia on Mon­day. It was pho­tographed and filmed along­side a re­al poly­mer $100 bill to record the dif­fer­ences in the two bills and lat­er re­turned to the ven­dor, who said he want­ed to show it to oth­er ven­dors so they would be able to spot fakes among the re­al bills.

On Tues­day, a BATT ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber met with a Guardian Me­dia news team, pre­sent­ing four fake poly­mer notes. Two of those bills were print­ed on a high gloss pa­per and the oth­er two on reg­u­lar pa­per.

All four bills had repli­cas of a trans­par­ent win­dow in the top left of the bill and an X in braille on the bot­tom right.

Those two fea­tures were in­clud­ed in the re­al poly­mer note to en­sure coun­ter­feit­ers would not be able to du­pli­cate it.

With the fake notes print­ed on the glossy pa­per- the hue was al­so dark­er than the orig­i­nal and the per­fo­ra­tion on the let­ter X in Braille is not as pro­nounced as the orig­i­nal.

None of those four coun­ter­feit bills glowed un­der an ul­tra­vi­o­let (UV) light when put to the test- a ma­jor in­di­ca­tion that they were fakes.

On Tues­day evening, the Cen­tral Bank of Trinidad and To­ba­go (CBTT) said it would re-start its ef­forts to sen­si­tise the pub­lic, in­clud­ing mar­ket ven­dors, on the fea­tures of the poly­mer $100 note. The CBTT said it would be buy­ing full-page ads in the dai­ly news­pa­pers to ed­u­cate the pub­lic in light of the coun­ter­feit notes in cir­cu­la­tion.

But in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, Im­bert ques­tioned whether the orig­i­nal sto­ry, with the head­line “Fake $100 bills” was re­al.

“A news­pa­per put some­thing on a front page and says “Fake bills” if the mem­ber (In­dars­ingh) had read the sto­ry, the sto­ry said that the per­son who al­leged­ly brought the al­leged fake bills wished to re­main anony­mous- there is no source. How does one know that the en­tire sto­ry is not a con­coc­tion?” Im­bert asked.

He said sev­er­al times that the trans­par­ent win­dow in the top left of the bill and an X in braille on the bot­tom right make it dif­fi­cult for the bill to be coun­ter­feit­ed.

“As I said be­fore, the se­cu­ri­ty fea­tures on the new bills are far more ro­bust and com­plex than on the old bills. Coun­ter­feit­ing is some­thing peo­ple have tried since time im­memo­r­i­al and they will try it again. How­ev­er the se­cu­ri­ty fea­tures of the bill, the clear trans­par­ent win­dow, the braille dots on it and the mul­ti­ple in­serts and oth­er se­cu­ri­ty fea­tures, make the poly­mer bills much more dif­fi­cult to coun­ter­feit than the old cloth bills,” Im­bert said.

Reporter: Colm Imbert