PRISTINA – At a cafe in Kosovo’s capital Pristina, staff have given up checking whether the 2-euro coins people use to pay are genuine, as such a high proportion are fake and as the high quality of some counterfeits makes it almost impossible to tell.
“At the beginning everyone was worried and was checking if the 2-euro coins were fake or not,” said waiter Endrit.
He and his colleagues would hold coins up to the light to examine them or plunk them down on a table to see how they sounded.
“Now we don’t check anymore… we may be taking fake money or may be giving out fake money. It is all the same.”
The number of fake 2-euro coins in circulation has seen a massive increase this year, according to law enforcement agencies.
Kosovo and neighbouring Montenegro are not part of the Euro Zone but nevertheless use the euro as their currency.
At a small shop close to the cafe in Pristina, of 11 2-euro coins in the cash register, the shopkeeper said she believed six were fake, and that so many in circulation were fake she had no choice but to accept them.
At Pristina police’s forensic laboratory, staff examined more than 30,000 counterfeit 2-euro coins in the first half of this year, compared to 4,451 in the same period last year.
“The quality ranges from very poor to very good,” said Vjollca Mavriqi, an expert on counterfeit money at the lab.
“Before, the fake coins were not magnetic and now they are, before they had issues with weight but now they match the genuine ones.”
Police said last year they sent 804 cases to prosecutors relating to money forgery, and 486 so far this year. In April they arrested a man and a woman trying to bring 10,600 fake 2-euro coins into Kosovo from North Macedonia.
Many Albanian-language videos on social media offer deals for fake coins or other euro banknotes which are for sale for 10%-20% of their face-value.
The manager of a state-owned Pristina parking company, Sokol Havolli, said he was receiving so many fake 2-euro coins, up to 150 euros ($160) worth per day, that he refused to accept the coin altogether. He has now been given large machines, donated by local banks, to identify fake coins.
Kosovo’s Central Bank told Reuters by email that banks and other financial institutions should report all counterfeit money delivered by clients.
But for a Pristina supermarket manager who declined to give his name, and who must deposit his daily takings at the bank, it is easier to pass the 2-euro coins on to other customers rather than risk prosecution by taking them to a bank.
“I don’t deposit these coins at the bank because I know they will call the police and I may end up being arrested… I give them back to clients next morning and then take more during the day,” he said.
“We always complained in Kosovo that we don’t have our own currency, well it looks we have now – fake 2-euro coins.” REUTERS
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