April 8, 2014 – The private mint European Central Mint (ECM) based in Amsterdam actually was according to a newspaper article the production centre of a mighty international counterfeiting ring. The mint made quite a rumour after having signed an exclusive contract with Suriname which awarded them the privilege of minting the country’s bullion coins. In autumn 2013 the mint was suddenly raided by Dutch police and, eventually, closed. Rumours divulged that behind this action stood fraud accusations against Patrick Onel, the mint’s owner.
An article in the British newspaper The Independent, however, revealed much more spectacular links. Following the article the ECM produced not only bullion coins for Suriname but masses of fake £1 coins for international counterfeiting rings which have been distributing millions of these coins in the UK since at least 2006.
The Independent quotes an ‘industry source’ stating that the counterfeiters ‘have been producing around £4m worth of £1 coins each year, if not more. This is certainly the biggest operation the UK has seen, both in terms of scale and sophistication.’
Since the ECM was acting as legally authorised mint they possessed the most modern equipment and the premises even ‘matched the sophistication of the Royal Mint’ as the same industry source judged. ECM possessed copies of all £1 coins and was able to produce the master dies. According to The Independent something comparable has never been seen in the history of UK forgery.
The industry source explained: ‘Whenever the police authorities broke up counterfeiting rings in the UK they thought that they would cut the supply of counterfeits, but that never happened. There was a constant interception of blue barrels coming into the UK. They knew that the barrels came from Germany and they would always have a two-inch layer of washers on the top to conceal the coins. The UK authorities now know that these barrels were being used by Onel and his operation.’
Apparently the Italian finance police was also involved in the investigation, but Dutch police stroke after being tipped off by British detectives.
In recent years the quantity of counterfeited £1 coins have sensibly arisen and this was the reason why the Royal Mint has developed a new £1 coin which will be introduced in 2017. The coin has a 12-sided design which refers to the threepenny in circulation between 1937 and 1971. In addition, however, it is also invested with modern anti-counterfeiting features.
You can read the whole article on The Independent website.
We reported about the raid at the ECM.
You can learn more about the new £1 coin in this article.
Although ECM’s website has shut down its Facebook profile is still active.