The Bank of England is however working feverishly to address that challenge and was able to reduce the rate of counterfeiting of its Pounds Sterling from 1,000,000 notes to about 750,000 in 2009, latest reports say.
This came to light during a Bank Note and Cash Processing Education programme organised for the media in Accra Thursday by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) in collaboration with De La Rue, UK printers of the Ghana Cedi.
Information gleaned from the Bank of England’s website, nonetheless states that during calendar year 2009 the number of counterfeit Bank of England banknotes taken out of circulation was around 566,000 with a face value of £11.1million.
To the Bank though, compared with the average number of genuine banknotes in circulation, of over 2.4 billion notes, the incidence of counterfeiting remains very low, adding that the number of counterfeits in circulation at any particular time is much lower than the annual total for counterfeits discovered, because they are typically removed from circulation quickly, often after a single use.
According to current data of England’s Central Bank, the £20 note was the most counterfeited in 2009 with 538,000 fake notes successfully taken out of circulation as against 1,374,000,000 genuine notes in circulation. This was followed by the £10 note with 21,000 fake, as against 627,000,000 genuine notes.
The rest were £5 notes – 4,000 fake and 258,000,000 genuine and £50 notes – 3,000 fake, while 168,000,000 were genuine, thus bringing the total fake notes to 566,000, as against 2,427,000,000 genuine Bank of England notes.
Nevertheless, while the figures for 2009 include all counterfeits of Bank of England banknotes discovered in 2009 and recorded by the Bank of England by 30 April 2010, England’s Central Bank explains that it sometimes receives counterfeit banknotes several months after they are found because, for example, the police may retain them as evidence.
Consequently, the final annual figures may be subject to some further upwards revision, it maintains.
Commenting on the global phenomenon, Steve McGregor, an official of the De La Rue, bemoaned that although countries such as China have employed the death penalty for anyone caught producing counterfeits of that country’s bank notes, it has not deterred people from engaging in that act.
Speaking to the question of the average life span of a bank note, Mr. McGregor said although in general terms it would be between seven and eight months, it was largely dependent on the culture of a people.
According to him, the average life span of a bank note in Japan for instance, is five weeks because their culture determines that every note that is found to be dirty or with a little defect must be removed from circulation.
Earlier, another official of De La Rue, James Cummins, disclosed that the BoG was working towards a better future for bank notes in circulation in Ghana, which will involve removing dirty notes from circulation faster than is being done currently.
De La Rue also manufactures individual currency customised bank note sorting machines with a high speed very authenticated sorting system, to ensure quality of currencies is maintained and also stop counterfeiting.
The company’s officials assured that apart from ensuring that machines which are manufactured to the customer’s specifications are of high quality, they track where the machines they manufacture go to, so that they do not compromise on the security of the currencies for which they are manufactured.
For any of such machines to be sent to Ghana, they must be certified by the Bank of Ghana.
By Edmund Smith-Asante