New legislation would mandate life sentences for counterfeiters and persons caught with fake notes in bulk.
With more than 5,000 fake currency cases pending in Bangladeshi courts and jeopardising the nation's financial health, the central bank has raised the stakes for professional forgers—and their accomplices.
Under a draft law soon to be submitted to Parliament, life imprisonment is the new cost of the forgery business, both for those who make fake currency, either local or foreign, and those who are holding it in bulk amounts.
The Fake Currency Prevention Bill-2013 is part of a two-pronged approach by Bangladesh Bank to address the prevalence of counterfeit money that has dogged the economies of Bangladesh and India for decades.
The draft bill, finalized in December 2012, must now be approved by Parliament to become law. The British-era Penal Code it will replace stipulated life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for forgers, but not bearers.
"The maximum punishment proposed in the new law is life imprisonment for counterfeiting and possessing bulk (10,000 pieces) fake local and foreign currencies," Central Bank Executive Director Dasgupta Asim Kumar told Khabar South Asia.
Safeguards in Bangladeshi bank notes include a security thread down the center of the bill, and both watermarked and ghosted images of graphics on the bills. On the Taka 500 note ($6.32), several small monograms of the central bank are only visible at distance when the bill is held to light. Counterfeiters cannot reproduce the effect. There are also four detectable points in the corners of the bill, which enable the blind to detect the denomination.
The Bangladesh Bank is also planning a new Fake Currency Detection and Analysis Centre, with technical support from Germany's Bundesbank, to impart the necessary know-how to officials of its currency management wing.
"Criminals who counterfeit currencies exploit easily-available high-class printing technology. We need rigorous research on the nature of counterfeiting for a secured currency regime, so we need the centre," Kumar said.
Tricked at the market
Former central bank governor Farash Uddin Ahmed welcomed the plans.
"The measures will help contain the menace of counterfeit currencies in Bangladesh and India," he told Khabar, urging a strict implementation of the new law.
Day labourer Abdul Aziz, 35, told Khabar counterfeiters are "enemies of the poor".
"As I cannot recognise [genuine] notes, a shopkeeper gave me a Tk 100 note ($1.28) at night. Another shopkeeper traced it as fake," said Aziz, who hails from Haluaghat, Mymensingh, a town on the Indian border about 120km north of Dhaka.
Molla Nazrul Islam, deputy commissioner of police (detective and criminal intelligence) told Khabar the central bank's moves would help law enforcers check currency forgery in both countries.
A regional problem
In 2009, at the behest of former Indian home secretary Gopal K Pillai, then-home secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder declared that Bangladesh would take necessary measures to address concerns about the circulation of fake Indian currency.
That pledge has produced results. Last year, Bangladeshi police recovered Rp 25m ($464,466) in counterfeit currency from four Pakistani nationals arrested on four different dates after landing at Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport from Karachi.
Additional Deputy Commisioner Mashiur Rahman told Khabar he busted 19 counterfeit factories in 2011 and 2012.
According to Kumar, the central bank director, fake Indian bank notes lack an embedded security thread through the center, but mimic the threaded line with a printed one. Also, counterfeit currency is usually printed on thinner, inferior paper and lacks watermarks that change colour when held to light.
Lastly, like bonafide taka notes, legitimate currency such as the 500-rupee note contains a moving graphic (the image of Mahatma Gandhi) and thick points in all four corners allowing the blind to detect the denomination of the note. Forged notes only contain printed points.