Bank without jokes: Central Bank asks Internal Affairs Ministry to impose fine for issuing fake money

The regulator has returned to the elaboration of the ban on the production of banknotes similar to the real ones

The Central Bank of Russia has begun negotiations with the Ministry of Internal Affairs on imposing a fine for the production of souvenir banknotes. The department of Elvira Nabiullina explained to Realnoe Vremya that it concerns administrative responsibility. In Russia, the number of frauds with the use of such notes is growing, and the Central Bank of Russia has already made attempts to ban their issue. These days, the regulator has returned to the topic in the wake of new sensational cases, when the attackers began to steal money from ATMs, replacing them with tickets of the “bank of jokes”, as it happened recently in Moscow: the criminals deposited on their account almost 600,000 fake rubles but withdrawn real ones. Tens of millions of rubles were stolen in Kazan, replacing them with “banknotes of jokes”. What is more, some criminals have not yet been found. According to experts, the “success” of fraudsters can inspire others, so on the one hand, the Central Bank's intentions are justified. On the other hand, it would be more logical to reequip ATMs, which are not always able to distinguish a fake from real money. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Unfulfilled project

In light of recent events with the substitution of money with counterfeit in ATMs, the Central Bank of Russia has again raised the issue of banning souvenir banknotes and introducing responsibility for their production. Let us remind that the first attempt to stop the production of the banknotes of “the bank of jokes” and similar products the Central Bank was made in 2016, following the example of European countries, offering to punish not only for the manufacture but also for storage, sale and transportation. This time the regulator has already begun to work on the issue with the ministry of internal affairs.

“Currently, the Central Bank of Russia is discussing the possibility of legislative proposals providing for administrative responsibility for the illegal manufacture of items similar in size and pattern to the real banknotes and coins of the Bank of Russia. The implementation of this initiative will eliminate the appearance of so-called banknote-like products on the financial market. They carry risks both for the financial system and for citizens, as they can be used including for fraudulent transactions,” the press service of the Central Bank of Russia commented on this initiative to Realnoe Vremya.

At the same time, the Central Bank stressed that the proposals being developed do not relate to souvenirs that differ from the banknotes of the Bank of Russia, for example, in size, colour and other characteristics.

Previously, for souvenir banknotes there were certain requirements, in particular by placing special labels indicating the fake nature of these “money”, the size different from the size of the real banknotes, said senior analyst at Information-analytical centre of Alpari Vadim Iosub:

“However, apparently, this didn’t completely eliminate fraudulent practices. The problem is not only in cases of ‘feeding’ such bills to ATMs but also that elderly and visually impaired people can become victims of deception. Such ‘souvenir’ does not play an important economic role, and in the case of its total ban, hardly anyone will suffer, except for scammers,” the expert adds.

Today souvenir banknotes can be bought in stores, on a large number of sites, including online. For example, in the largest in the CIS online store, Ozon, they cost from 50 to 90 rubles.

In the description of the good it is indicated that the number of banknotes is not standardized in different packs, as the “money” have an entertainment function, but, judging by the description of the goods, the height of the pack, for example, of $100, is 2 cm (standard pack in a bank package — 100 bills). In the reviews, buyers note that the banknotes are very high quality and similar to the real ones, but some complain that they received banknotes of the “old” design.


Back in 2014, the Central Bank posted on its website the materials of the international conference “Trends and challenges of cash circulation at the present stage”, held in October 2013. Vladimir Finogenov (then — the head of the department of banknotes and prevention of counterfeiting at the cash circulation department of the Central Bank) mentioned in his report this method of fraud, “requiring the attackers the least ‘labour’, as the bulk of the work for them has already been performed by quite legal manufacturers of various kinds of souvenirs that mimic the appearance of banknotes of the Bank of Russia (‘bill of the bank of jokes’, ‘ballet ticket’, ‘banquet ticket’, etc.).”

“Anything can deceive — when they installed the ATMs they didn’t provide a simple way of deception: they focused on complex, all sorts of surveillance were installed, but a simple thing... Because the simpler the fraud is, the more often it takes place,” said Georgy Ostapkovich, the director of the Centre for Market Research at the HSE.

According to the expert, the Central Bank assumes that the precedent will force more people to try to get rich in a similar way, “Why the Central Bank goes for it — it is clear. A precedent has been created, it seems that fans of such profit will become more, they, of course, react this way — maybe too radically.” At the same time, it would be more correct to rebuild ATMs so that they do not accept souvenirs, “but such a large number of ATMs cannot be quickly rebuilt, perhaps this is the right manoeuver on their part,” adds Ostapkovich about the bank's proposal.

“Payment” means for suggestible and visually impaired citizens

Souvenir banknotes are ordinary paper as long as they are not used as a fake means, says leading analyst at Otkritie Broker Andrey Kochetkov, “Unfortunately, some samples are difficult to distinguish from ordinary banknotes, which means that attackers can use them as a means of payment, using inattention or suggestibility of citizens. The percentage of such citizens is quite high.”

According to the analyst, if the samples begin to cheat ATMs and vending machines, it is no longer souvenirs, but full-fledged counterfeit money, which fall under the scope of the relevant article.

However, Finogenov in the same report almost 6 years ago specified that “such printed products cannot be considered under the category of the banknotes having signs of a fake, therefore, the article No. 186 “Production for the purpose of sale of counterfeit bank bills of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation...” is not applicable to the persons selling them through automatic means of reception of cash”. He noted, however, that such fraud falls under the article No. 159 of the criminal code “Fraud”: “And for fraud in Russia the criminal penalty is very mild. In this regard, it is necessary to amend criminal legislation.” And it seems that now the Central Bank has decided to correct this “defect”.

On souvenirs, which are so similar to real banknotes, it is applied imitation of the signs of authenticity, but ATMs, as practice shows, read these signs of authenticity as real. To combat souvenir “fakes”, Finogenov proposed to increase the number of machine-readable signs of authenticity and constantly update the software of ATMs.

“Perhaps, it is not necessary to completely ban the production of souvenir or game money, but it will be quite reasonable to prescribe the necessary differences from the real payment banknotes. In any case, it will be more difficult to realise a plastic coin with the size of a steering wheel on a vegetable market than a coin that is 99% similar to a legal tender. If to forbid everything on only one sign of possible similarity, it will be possible to bring to court the owners of board games,” Kochetkov adds.

The story of Kazan “success”

In Kazan, in September 2018, Otkritie Bank revealed a large shortage of 230 million rubles (taking into account the exchange rate at that time; rubles, dollars and euros were substituted by tickets of the bank of jokes). According to investigators, the substitution was made by the former director of the department, Oleg Polyakh. The former top manager was declared a fugitive, he has not been found yet.

In June 2016, Realnoe Vremya reported on the substitution of 14 million rubles with souvenir banknotes in the Bank of Kazan. The disappeared at the same time with money head of cash desk of additional office Svetlana Astafeva and her accomplice Yury Spirin were looked for by means of the population as well, but it didn't bring results. First, it was bill collectors who came under suspicion who brought a bag of cash — there were bills of “the bank of jokes”. But later, the police investigators admitted that they failed to arrest a fugitive in the short term. The couple has not been found over three years.

By Leysan Nabieva

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