Fri, 17 Mar 2000

BI downplays fears of fake banknotes

JAKARTA (JP): Bank Indonesia said on Wednesday the amount of fake rupiah banknotes in circulation during the past three years was relatively small compared to the total number of counterfeit bills seized by the police.

Bank Indonesia director for banknotes supervision H.Y. Susmanto said the number of fake rupiah bills which were in circulation from 1997 to 1999 reached Rp 1 billion, or about 15 percent of the total counterfeit notes seized.

"We don't have the figure for early this year yet. But I think the ratio is small," he said at a news conference.

Recent highly publicized police raids have stoked fears that Jakarta is becoming a center for the distribution of counterfeit money.

Police officers and customs officials in the capital and the nearby town of Bogor reportedly confiscated counterfeit rupiah banknotes totaling Rp 5 billion last week.

Susmanto downplayed the fears, focusing on the confirmed counterfeit bills in circulation being a tiny percentage of the total money in circulation.

He said the confiscated fake rupiah bills in circulation last year reached Rp 6.17 billion, equivalent to about 0.01 percent of the total Rp 50.4 trillion of banknotes in circulation.

He said for 1998, the total fake bills in circulation reached 0.013 percent of the money in circulation, and for 1997 it was 0.016 percent.

Susmanto explained that confiscated fake bills were divided into two categories, consisting of those seized directly by the police and those submitted by the public.

He said the latter category denoted bills already in circulation.

The central bank will strive to work harder with the police to combat the problem, he added.

However, Bank Indonesia's focus will be on preventive measures, including by improving the printing technology of the bills.

Susmanto said banknotes in Rp 50,000 and Rp 100,000 denominations were difficult to counterfeit because of more sophisticated printing technology.

The police seized Rp 50,000 and Rp 20,000 counterfeit banknotes totaling some Rp 3 billion last week. Six men, including an Army veteran, were detained.

East Jakarta Police earlier apprehended nine men in possession of fake Rp 50,000 bills amounting to Rp 100 million.

Cisarua Police officers in Bogor also confiscated Rp 1.87 billion in counterfeit Rp 50,000 notes at a house on Monday morning.

Articles 244 and 551 of the Criminal Code stipulate a maximum sentence of a 15-year jail term for people convicted of counterfeiting rupiah banknotes. (rei)