Police probe 18 money changers over fake notes

Move comes after Myanmar holds S'porean couple for using counterfeit kyat notes

Police are investigating 18 money changers for allegedly possessing fake Myanmar currency after two Singaporeans were held for using the fake notes in Yangon last week.

The married couple, who are in their 40s, told Myanmar police during questioning that they had changed money at an outlet in The Arcade.

Singapore police, who learnt about the arrest on Nov 29, conducted a raid on the money changer the couple went to. Officers seized fake 10,000-kyat notes with the same serial numbers starting with prefixes AG and AE.

The police raided 17 other money changers on Monday and Tuesday and also found fake kyat notes.

Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday that the woman works for a local shipping company and was attending a training programme at the Yangon office. Her husband was there to accompany her.

Singapore police said in a statement on Thursday that the couple are receiving consular help from the Singapore Embassy in Yangon.

Myanmar's Ministry of Information said in a Facebook post that the couple had paid the entrance fees to the Shwedagon Pagoda on Nov 28 with what were found to be fake notes.

  • 45

    The number of fake kyat notes that Myanmar police confiscated from the Singaporean couple.

The official Global New Light of Myanmar daily reported that local police confiscated 45 fake notes from the Singaporeans.

Money changers at The Arcade told Wanbao that they rarely carry kyat notes and that they usually recommend that travellers take US dollars to Myanmar instead.

One money changer, who gave his name as Mr Du, said he does not often see such a large number of fake notes at any one time.

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

Mr Mohamed Rafeeq, owner of Clifford Gems and Money Exchange at Raffles City, 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," said Mr Rafeeq, who does not carry kyat notes.

Mr Barakath Ali, first vice-president of the Money Changers Association (Singapore), said they face the risk of receiving fake notes from time to time, and they are aware that they should alert the police immediately once they discover such notes.

He said money changers here started trading in the Myanmar currency only in the last two years because of the country's growing popularity as a holiday destination.

"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 managing director of Aramex International Exchange at Sim Lim Square.

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

The police have reminded the public to be vigilant and to examine kyat notes for the same serial numbers starting with AG and AE.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2018, with the headline 'Police probe 18 money changers over fake notes'. Print Edition | Subscribe