The debut of new currency with anticounterfeit technology appears to have prompted people turning out fake old bank notes to rush to use them, but it will probably take about a year before all the old money is taken out of circulation.
Around the New Year’s holidays, about 820 bogus old 10,000 yen bills, made with color printers, were found at shrines and temples in 25 prefectures.
At Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Osaka, 27 such notes were found at booths selling paper charms and other goods. The shrine was inundated by almost 2 million people from New Year’s Eve to Jan. 2.
“We presume visitors have no ill will and we can’t really examine watermarks in front of visitors,” said the official in charge of accounts at the shrine office. On the other hand, “we cannot allow such fraud.”
Unlike convenience stores and automated teller machines, no crime-prevention cameras are installed at shrine facilities selling charms or at roadside stands.
“Shrines might have been targeted because they’re weak in terms of anticrime management,” the accounts official said.
The forged bank notes recently in circulation are not elaborate but might pass as genuine in dim lighting, or if they are used in places crowded with people, a National Police Agency official said.
Since December, police have arrested more than 20 people, including gangsters and debtors, on suspicion of using forged notes.
“There might have been information out there that the yearend and New Year’s period was the right time to use these notes,” the NPA official said. “It has essentially become a crime that anybody can commit” through the use of personal computers.
A man arrested by Nara Prefectural Police confessed he had forged more than 100 notes and used them in the Kansai region and Aichi Prefecture. Police believe he was heavily in debt.
At Hokkaido Shrine in Sapporo, restaurant employees and jobless men used counterfeit notes to “earn change” for gangs, police said.
The Bank of Japan held a meeting of branch managers last week to discuss measures against forged notes and decided to increase the supply of the new bank notes introduced Nov. 1 and speed up their distribution.
The central bank boasts that the new notes are armed with the world’s most advanced anticounterfeit technology, with Gov. Toshihiko Fukui terming them the “pride” of the BOJ.
But the volume of notes in circulation has increased by about three times compared with 20 years ago due to economic growth.
As a result, the bank could prepare new notes accounting for only half the volume in circulation and has had to continue distributing some old notes to banks, even after the spate of forgery cases.
The central bank asked financial institutions to collect old notes as quickly as possible, but a representative of one major bank said, “Because the volume of new notes is limited, it’s difficult for us to quickly take such measures.”
The BOJ announced it will supply only new notes to banks starting this week.
The central bank asked the Printing Bureau to produce more new notes and to work even on holidays, but bureau sources said it will still take more than a year for all the notes in circulation to be fully shifted to new ones.
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