LISBON, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese and Spanish police, working in conjunction with Europol, have broken up a counterfeit money ring based in Portugal, Spain's National Police force announced on Thursday.
Police swooped on five properties in Portugal, seizing 70,000 euros in fake 20, 50 and 500 euro notes, and 140,000 CFA francs.
Three men were arrested. A Portuguese man, the group's mastermind, employed a tactic known as the "drip system" to circulate the cash, making modest purchases in small shops unequipped with money authentication devices.
Notes manufactured by the gang thus showed up in Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Police inquiries began in 2016 when the investigative branch of the Bank of Spain detected increased flows of false 20 and 50 euro bills passing through Badajoz, a Spanish town on the Portuguese border.
The Spanish police consulted their Portuguese counterparts and learned that the same false notes had been detected in Portugal. A joint investigation between the Spanish National Police force and the Portuguese Judicial Police began, culminating in the five house searches in Portugal.
In one, the mastermind of the operation was caught red-handed as he put the finishing touches to a new batch of forged notes.
Besides the counterfeit money itself, the police also seized a color stamping machine, dies, a guillotine, four ink-jet printers, a scanner, a computer and several rolls of metallic ribbon used to make holograms.