Friday 27 January 2017 11:08 am

Criminals made €8.6m of fake “Bin Laden” banknotes at the end of last year

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The European Central Bank (ECB) said it withdrew €8.6m worth of so-called "Bin Laden" banknotes in the final six months of last year.

The notes, worth €500, are in the process of being phased out because of their association with money-laundering and terror – but they nevertheless made up just under five per cent of all counterfeited notes in the last six months of 2016, the ECB said. 

The bank added it had withdrawn over €22.8m in dodgy banknotes during the period, 353,000 notes in total.

Read more: Here's what the Bank of England's £1m "titan" banknote looks like

The bank said the number of counterfeits was "very low" compared with the same period in year before, when it withdrew 445,000 notes.

The €50 remained the most counterfeited note, accounting for 42.5 per cent, or €7.5m, of the total, while €20 notes made up 37.8 per cent of the total, or €2.7m.

The ECB said it had discovered almost 94 per cent of the counterfeited notes in euro area countries, while 5.4 per cent were in EU member states (ie. ones that don't use the euro as their currency), while one per cent were found in other parts of the world. 

In May last year the ECB said it was scrapping the €500 note altogether because of the frequency with which it is used to fund crime.

The ECB will stop printing the pink notes from 2018. French finance minister Michel Sapin said last year the notes are "used more for hiding things than buying them".

"It is used more to facilitate transactions that are not honest than to allow you and me to buy food to eat," he added.