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Currency Counterfeiting

There is, seemingly, a debate about the process of execution known as ‘hanged, drawn and quartered”.1 The difficulty is whether it means just that the victim was ‘drawn’ behind a horse (which he was) to the place of his doom, or whether his entrails were ‘drawn’, as a butcher draws giblets from the unsuspecting fowl. He was, surely, hanged and – preferably before expiring – quartered, which meant he was decapitated and then chopped into four pieces. Usually, the hapless head was mounted on an iron stake in a common thoroughfare, or the town square, for all to witness.

Anyway, on 15 October 1690, Thomas and Anne Rogers were convicted in England of counterfeiting silver coins and he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Luckily for Anne, she was only burnt alive.2 Their crime was ‘clipping’ (the edges off) 40 silver coins – the clippings could be amassed, and melted into bullion.3 In the process, the intrinsic value of the coin was reduced, although it maintained its face value.

The authorities have gone soft in the modern era. In May 2014, a man who claimed to be the best counterfeiter in the world, was allowed to go free after six weeks in jail, paying a fine of Canadian $1 500 – he also got a non-extradition (to the United States) agreement from the Canadian authorities.4 This person, Frank Bourassa, had spent two years studying the details about currency security on the website of the US Secret Service. By the time he had finished, he had a printing operation capable of producing $250 million in counterfeit US$20 bills. Authorities stated that the fakes were not detectable by the human eye.

Here in South Africa, the Prevention of Counterfeiting of Currency Act 19655 legislates on the topic.6 According to the Act, a ‘counterfeit coin’ is any coin ‘resembling or apparently intended to resemble or pass for an authorised current coin’.

  1. It is a crime to:
    • counterfeit or perform any part of the process of counterfeiting any current coin;7
    • forge or alter a bank note.8
  2. It is also a crime to tender any counterfeit coin, or a forged or altered bank note.9

  3. If you accept any counterfeit coin, or a forged or altered bank note, it is also a criminal offence.10

  4. Any person who, without lawful authority or excuse:
    • has in his possession; or
    • imports or receives into the Republic; or
    • exports from the Republic; or puts or takes or causes to be put or taken on board any ship, vessel, boat, aircraft or vehicle for the purpose of being so exported, any counterfeit coin or any forged or altered bank note commits an offence.11
  5. Any person who, with intent to counterfeit any current coin or to forge a bank note, makes, mends, obtains, has in his possession or disposes of any tool, instrument or machine:
    • for making any counterfeit coin or forged bank note;
    • for the marking of coin round the edges with letters, grainings or other marks or figures resembling letters, grainings, marks or figures round the edges of any current coin; or
    • capable of being used for preparing any material for receiving any impression resembling that on any current coin,

    commits a criminal offence.12

  6. Any person who:
    • gilds, silvers or colours any piece of metal (of a size or figure fit to be coined) for the purpose of making it into acounterfeit coin;13
    • makes any piece of metal into a size or figure fit to be coined, with intent to facilitate counterfeiting;
    • buys, sells or is in possession of a piece of metal for such purposes;14
    • impairs, diminishes or lightens any current coin in order that it pass as a current coin;15
    • knowingly has in his possession, or disposes of, or in any way deals with any filing or clipping, or any gold or silver bullion, or any gold or silver (in dust, solution or otherwise) which has been produced or obtained from current coin;16
    • with intent to defraud, tenders, disposes of or otherwise uses as current coin any medal or piece of metal which is not current coin;17 or
    • defaces any current coin by stamping thereon any word, letter, device or marks,18

    is guilty of an offence.

  1. Grammatically, human beings cannot be ‘hung’. Correct English language requires that they be hanged. 

  2. Wikipedia — ‘Thomas Rogers and Anne Rogers’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Rogers_and_Anne_Rogers

  3. Wikipedia — ‘Methods of coin debasement’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_coin_debasement

  4. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/master-currency-counterfeiter-prints-millions-screw-us/story?id=23646226 

  5. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 55 of 2003. 

  6. The Act is administered by the Minister of Finance. 

  7. Section 2(a). 

  8. Section 2(b). 

  9. Section 2(c). 

  10. Section 2(c). 

  11. Section 2(d). 

  12. Section 2(e). 

  13. Section 2(f). 

  14. Section 2(h). 

  15. Section 2(i). 

  16. Section 2(j). 

  17. Section 2(k). 

  18. Section 2(l).