Could North Korea print millions upon millions of nearly undetectable fake U.S. $100 bills and get away with it? They already do, points out one counterfeiting expert. And they seem poised to do more.
The regime, recently taken over by the son of the late Kim Jong Il, has long made so-called “superdollars” for its own ends, mostly to generate cash for its otherwise broke government that it likely uses to buy foreign arms and technology.
“These ultra-counterfeits are light years beyond the weak facsimiles produced by most forgers, who use desktop printers. As an anti-counterfeiting investigator with Europol once put it: ‘Superdollars are just U.S. dollars not made by the U.S. government,’” writes author David Wolman in column published by Time magazine online. “With few exceptions, only Federal Reserve banks equipped with the fanciest detection gear can identify these fakes.”
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They are so good at it because they use high-end equipment, so high-end that few other groups in the world can meet the level of quality of North Korean fake U.S. bills, Wolman writes.
“The regime apparently possesses the same kind of intaglio printing press (or presses) used by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. A leading theory is that in 1989, just before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the machines made their way to North Korea from a clandestine facility in East Germany, where they were used to make fake passports and other secret documents,” Wolman writes.
They even use the same paper and procure ink from the same Swiss supplier used by the United States government.
Pyongyang could use their superdollars to flood the world with fake U.S. cash, thus devaluing the currency rapidly, but Wolman believes their aim is likely a bit more prosaic: Using the funny money to finance their own needs.
As he points out, a recent devaluation of its own currency forced upon the regime wrecked the country.
Wolman figures that North Korea has been creating up to $25 million a year in cash for its own ends, just a drop in the ocean of trillions of electronic and cash dollars in global circulation. He advocates simply ceasing to print our own $100 bills — just go electronic — thus instantly turning the global users of our larger cash bills, many of them criminals and drug dealers, into the losers.
The number of dollars in circulation matters beyond the counterfeiting issue. At least part of the reason for the run-up in the price of oil has been expectation among traders that the U.S. Federal Reserve will be forced to “print” more electronic cash to stave off another U.S. recession.
Since oil is priced in dollars, that means speculators will begin to bet on higher oil prices to compensate for the effective devaluation to come.
Oil hit $108 a barrel in early trading as the U.S. Dollar Index firmed slightly to 78.472. It has traded as low as 70 and as high as 90 in recent years.
Read more: Expert: North Korea Can Flood World With Fake U.S. Cash
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