Ireland has insufficient laws to tackle the growing problem of criminal gangs passing off counterfeit euro notes, according to the European Commission.
The commission is attempting to crack down on criminals who counterfeit around half a million euro notes and coins a year, resulting in €500m in financial damage since the introduction of the single currency.
As part of the crackdown, the commission plans to bring in minimum penalties, including imprisonment, for counterfeiting offences.
A spokesperson for the commission said that although Ireland is not a major source of bogus currency, the commission is not happy with legislation in Ireland that could see counterfeiters walk away with only a fine.
“Ireland has only fines as minimum sanction, which generally we don’t think is sufficiently dissuasive,” said the spokesperson. “Ireland doesn’t seem to be particularly bad when it comes to euro counterfeiting levels, but of course its geographic location does not really lend it to becoming a major hub anyway.”
However, the Department of Justice disagreed with the commission’s assessment of Irish laws.
“There are, in fact, substantial penalties for counterfeiting under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences Act) 2001. Sections 33 — 38 provide for a number of offences in relation to counterfeiting of currency and the penalties provided include fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
Research by Europol, the European police office, said that Italy, Bulgaria, and Colombia were the main sources of counterfeit notes that spread across the continent.
As a result of the economic downturn, som legitimate printing firms in Europe have started to produce counterfeit notes. The Camorra, an organised crime group in the Neapolitan region of Italy, has become heavily involved, and distribute notes through a range of itinerant communities,including Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians, Moroccans, and west Africans.
Retail Ireland said it was not aware of significant problems with counterfeit notes in Ireland but when members found fake money it notifies all its members and gardaí.
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