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