When the Ministry of Finance announced the introduction of a new polymer $100 bill last December, it brought some consternation to the public. This was mainly because of the time frame within which the authorities wanted to introduce the new currency. Months later and after adjustment to the deadline, the new bills have been successfully introduced into the system. However, the almost immediate revelation in December—the start of the transitional phase—that the criminal element had already been counterfeiting the bills was not good news.
Back then, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank attempted to appease citizens, noting the new bill are not easily counterfeited. After all, the suite of security features makes the notes so hard to duplicate that make them so appealing worldwide. But Minister of National Security Stuart Young, the police and other financial institutions were quite dismissive to this news then. Minister Young’s counter-argument was that the polymer notes are easily identifiable by touch and have security features which were hard to copy—perhaps guaranteeing counterfeiters would not be successful.
While this media house accepts that polymer notes are hard to replicate, we are also mindful the counterfeiters will use whatever means necessary to fleece unsuspecting citizens. The latest fake note passed off to a Port-of-Spain market vendor was a very good attempt at a paper copy of the bill. Needless to say, unsuspecting citizens, unaware of the features of the new bill, will be caught out by these fakes. In fact, this media house dare says even financial industry professionals could be duped if they do not thoroughly scrutinise the fake. Having said that, which citizen seriously scrutinises money in the course of a normal day-to-day business transaction and is able to discern the difference quickly enough?
The only way to counteract what is going on is to educate the public more about the new bill’s features, the counterfeiting activity and to take more steps to find the individuals involved in the illegal act. This also requires that members of the public who are caught out immediately provide the police and banking authorities with the information and the fake bills. We are aware that some citizens are often too embarrassed to make such reports but it might be the only way to root out the criminals who thrive in this trade from our society.
Given that the reason why the bills were introduced in the first place was to fight money laundering and eradicating drugs and illegal arms financing, which continues to feed the more violent crimes plaguing the society, one would think all right-minded citizens would want to ensure the counterfeiters are stamped out. And if the activity with the newest bill is as rampant as one banking sector official suggests, all citizens concerned must cooperate in this process.