Police probing 18 money changers suspected of possessing fake Myanmar currency notes

SINGAPORE - The police are investigating 18 Singapore money changers for allegedly possessing fake Myanmar currency notes, after two Singaporeans were arrested in Yangon for using these notes during their trip.

In a statement on Thursday (Dec 6), police said that they had received a report last Thursday that two Singaporeans had been arrested for using fake kyat notes in Yangon.

The two Singaporeans are currently receiving consular help from the Singapore Embassy in Myanmar, police said.

According to Myanmar's Ministry of Information, the Singaporean couple, who are in their 40s, had used the fake notes to pay for their entrance fees at the southern stairway of the pagoda last Wednesday.

Myanmar police noticed that they had three fake notes and conducted a search, they said in a Facebook post.

The official Global New Light of Myanmar reported that the authorities had seized a total of 45 fake Myanmar currency notes.

During police interrogation, the couple said that they had allegedly received the kyat from a money changer at The Arcade, the report added.

Singapore police mounted a raid on the money changer and found fake 10,000 kyat notes with the same serial numbers starting with AG and AE.

Officers subsequently conducted raids at 17 other money changers here on Monday and Tuesday. Similar fake kyat notes were found in those raids.

Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported on Friday that the female victim works in a local shipping company and was attending a training programme in the Yangon office. Her husband had flown there to accompany her.

It is understood that the both of them are still in Myanmar.

Many money changers at The Arcade told Wanbao that they rarely carry kyat notes and if customers ask for them, they would recommend that they bring US dollars to Myanmar instead.

One of the money changers, who gave his name as Mr Du, said that he does not often see such a large number of fake currency notes at a single time.

He said: "Usually, there may be one or two fake notes in a stack, but a case like this is rare."

Mr Mohamed Rafeeq, owner of Clifford Gems and Money Exchange at Raffles City mall,  told The Straits Times that many money changers were shocked and saddened by the news.

"We are a small community of over 400 money changers just trying to do an honest business here. In Singapore, we follow very strict guidelines and we are aware that we should not give counterfeit notes," he said.

"I am hoping for the best and hopefully police investigations will reveal what happened," added Mr Rafeeq, who does not carry kyat notes.

First vice-president of the Money Changers Association (Singapore) Barakath Ali said that money changers do face a risk of getting counterfeit notes from time to time, and they are aware that they should alert the police immediately if they discover these notes.

He advised association members to be prudent and take extra precaution when dealing with exotic currencies, such as by using counterfeit detector machines.

He added that money changers here have only started trading in the Myanmar kyat in the last two years, after the country started becoming a popular holiday destination among Singaporeans.

"Money changers are starting to see a market for the kyat, but we are still new to it and unfamiliar with it, and that may be one of the reasons why these notes could have gone undetected," said Mr Barakath, who is also the managing director of Aramex International Exchange at Sim Lim Square.

Anyone convicted for using fake currency notes may be jailed for up to 20 years and fined. Those found guilty of possessing fake currency notes may be jailed for up to 15 years.

In the statement, the police reminded the public to be vigilant and to examine any kyat notes with the same serial numbers starting with prefixes AG and AE.

Those who suspect that they have received a fake Myanmar currency note are advised to adopt the following measures:

  • Report it to the nearest neighbourhood police centre;
  • Delay, if possible, the person who gives the fake notes and call the police immediately;
  • Take note of the person's appearance, such as his or her gender, race, age, height, built, clothing and tattoo, as well as the language or dialect spoken. If the person has a companion, observe him or her too.
  • If the person drives, note his or her vehicle's registration number; and
  • Limit the handling of the suspected note and place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope, to prevent further tampering. Hand it over to the police immediately.