Central Banking

Banknotes worth $2m stolen from Swiss printer

Investigation under way into theft of incomplete Sfr1,000 notes that subsequently entered circulation as counterfeits

Swiss authorities today revealed they are investigating the theft of a large number of unfinished Sfr1,000 notes from Zurich-based banknote printers Orell Füssli.

According to a spokesman for the Swiss Attorney General, the alarm was raised in October 2012 when two men attempted to exchange a number of counterfeit Sfr1,000 notes at a bureau de change in London. They were both arrested; one was released and the other served a seven-month prison sentence. A third man was remanded in custody in April 2013 but was later released.

The subsequent investigation has been running for nearly a year, but the Attorney General only agreed to make the thefts public today.

In total, 1,800 notes worth Sfr1.8 million ($2 million) were stolen, although it is not clear how many have entered circulation. It seems that Orell Füssli was not aware of the thefts until they were informed by the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency.

"Subsequent checks revealed that unfinished notes from current production at Orell Füssli had been stolen," the printer said in a statement.

In addition to 37 notes that were seized when the two suspects were arrested, just 17 notes have been handed in.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) admitted that the counterfeits are likely to be difficult to spot, as only a few security features appear to be missing. The serial number had not yet been stamped onto the notes when they were stolen, and a fake number was added later. Some of the notes are also missing a "micro-perforated" number.

Orell Füssli has assumed liability and agreed to fully compensate anyone who hands a note in to the SNB. The banknote printer said it has "painstakingly" reviewed its security processes, arranged for an independent security audit, and "taken action in organisational and personnel terms" to tighten security.

Only users who have a paid subscription or are part of a corporate subscription are able to print or copy content.

To access these options, along with all other subscription benefits, please contact info@centralbanking.com or view our subscription options here: http://subscriptions.centralbanking.com/subscribe

You are currently unable to copy this content. Please contact info@centralbanking.com to find out more.

You need to sign in to use this feature. If you don’t have a Central Banking account, please register for a trial.

Sign in
You are currently on corporate access.

To use this feature you will need an individual account. If you have one already please sign in.

Sign in.

Alternatively you can request an individual account