Counterfeiters employ the methods of cocaine traffickers to get their product abroad: Couriers carry notes in false-bottom suitcases, hide them in handcrafts, books, food products. People have even swallowed bills rolled up in latex for intestinal journeys.
As far as Peru's police can tell, their nation's counterfeiting business is run by domestic syndicates.
Top bands include "Los Nique," for whom the 13-year-old was working when he was arrested in 2012. Its boss, Joel Nique Quispe, was also arrested last year and sentenced to 12 years in prison. With good behavior, he could be out in four years. The 13-year-old, who cannot by law be identified because he is a minor, was released. He was not charged because of his age.
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Another band is headed by Wilfredo Cobo, who is also in prison. First arrested in 2008, he was released two years later and arrested again last year. Portocarrero said Cobo used brothers in Italy, Spain and France to introduce counterfeit euros into Europe, routing them through Chile and South Africa.
For all their skill, says Portocarrero, Peruvian counterfeiters' handiwork will always get tripped up by the infrared scanner banks used to authenticate currency. That, he says, owes to their continued reliance on standard "bond" paper, the variety used by consumers that is available in stores and that easily disintegrates when wet.
If they were able to obtain "rag" paper, the cloth type used for banknotes, all bets would be off, Portocarrero said. "The day they get it and perfect the finish a bit more, (their bills) will go undetected."
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