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    Beijing Police Bust Counterfeit Currency Con

    Nineteen suspects who used unlicensed taxis to scam passengers have been arrested with fake banknotes worth $114,000.

    Beijing police have arrested 19 suspects with ties to a counterfeit currency syndicate that used unlicensed taxis to swindle passengers, The Beijing News reported Tuesday.

    The ringleaders of the operation, two men surnamed Guo and Zhou, were found along with another unnamed man in possession of fake banknotes with a face value of 720,000 yuan ($114,000) during a raid on Monday. Police also discovered 16 bogus taxis that were being used as fronts from which the criminals switched their unsuspecting passengers’ real bills with fake ones in the capital’s Yanqing District, where the three arrests took place. The other 16 suspects were arrested elsewhere in the city.

    Counterfeit currency scams often go hand in hand with unlicensed taxis with fake meters, driven by people with fake identification, Beijing police said in a statement Tuesday following the bust. The scams, they added, are a “fast-paced transfer” whereby passengers pay the drivers, who offer some excuse and hand counterfeit notes back. These criminals often target people at airports, railway stations, and popular shopping and nightlife hubs, sometimes hoping to attract intoxicated patrons who are more likely to have their guard down.

    In March, the Beijing police launched a special task force to combat this particular crime after years of citizen complaints and increasing incidents involving bogus cabs and currency. Last month, over 10,000 taxis in Beijing were equipped with an “all-in-one smart device” to prevent fraudulent charges and illegal vehicle-sharing. Authorities have hailed Monday’s raid as the first successful operation against counterfeit money in Beijing over the past 20 years, according to the news report.

    Despite strict law enforcement and harsh punishments including hefty fines and prison sentences, the manufacturing and smuggling of counterfeit currency is still prevalent in China. Earlier this year, police in southern Guangdong province seized 214 million yuan worth of fake notes in one of the biggest counterfeit-busting operations in the country’s history.

    To combat the circulation of such money, China in August 2015 introduced new 100 yuan notes with advanced features that make them more recognizable and trickier to reproduce. It was the first modification to the bill since 2005.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: A man stands between a fake taxi (right) and a real taxi at a police station in Beijing, Oct. 11, 2013. Tao Ran/VCG)