ABU DHABI // Two people who claimed they could produce up to US$14 million in genuine notes by adding special chemicals to black paper have been arrested in what police have described as one of the largest fraud busts in Abu Dhabi.
The two suspects, an Emirati businessman and an Egyptian accountant, were arrested in a police sting on the first day of Eid al Adha, on November 16, in Abu Dhabi. Police said the men tried to circulate as much as $14m (Dh51.4m) in counterfeit currency.
Police said they found some of the notes at an Al Ain farm belonging to the Emirati suspect, AMA, 40. The Egyptian suspect was identified as GFM, 49.
The operation, according to the Ministry of Interior, is one of the largest fraud schemes ever discovered in the emirate.
The two suspects, according to Col Dr Rashid Mohammed Bu Rashid, the head of the organised crime unit within the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), demonstrated to their potential victims how their scheme worked before attempting to sell them "transformative" powder and the notes.
"They had genuine dollars, which they pigmented black," Col Dr Bu Rashid said. "They would then add some chemicals to remove the black colour from the dollar note."
After they demonstrated the scheme, the colonel added, they would tell customers the powder could change any black paper into a $100 note.
He said they would ask high prices for small portions of the powder - up to $100,000, according to their confessions to police.
Col Dr Bu Rashid said the CID officer posed as a customer after police received a tip and contacted GFM, who worked for a property company.
GFM demonstrated to the officer how the papers could be turned into real money. The suspect then said he had large amounts of the powder and notes, and demanded Dh250,000 for $14m in "black dollars".
The officer and the seller agreed to meet again for the delivery. But the seller called the officer later and told him he would only sell $2m in black dollars for Dh100,000, which the officer agreed to because he wanted to make sure the seller remained interested.
The colonel said the police found $2m in fake notes, in $100 denominations, with the Egyptian suspect in a large suitcase. The rest of the notes, with a face value of $12m, he said, were found after the police raided AMA's farm in Nahel.
Each suspect claimed, during police interrogation, that the other had led the scheme, police said.
The colonel said the number of victims was not yet known because "a lot of victims would not report such crimes". He urged victims of any fraud attempt to report it.
This was not the first time that fraudsters have been accused of using such "money doubling" schemes and counterfeit operations to bilk people out of money.
In February, two men were swindled out of Dh250,000 that they believed could be doubled by "magical powder" in Abu Dhabi. The victims ended up with a bag full of counterfeit notes, and were also arrested. They pleaded guilty to being involved in black magic.
And last year, in Ras al Khaimah, three men were charged with simply selling fake US currency. The RAK police reported finding $160 in counterfeit notes in a residence there, although they suspected far more money had changed hands.
The three men, all living illegally in the emirate, confessed to dealing in counterfeit currency, police said.