30
$\begingroup$

I recently read in a news article that a large amount of Libyan banknotes printed in Russia were seized in Malta following an order coming from the USA. Both Russia and the USA have geostrategic interests in this part of the world so I assume this action is probably linked to an economic warfare operation. Banknotes normally include a large amount of security features that prevent people to easily counterfeit them but I assume that for large countries like China, Russia or the USA it is not a big deal to print banknotes of a foreign country. In time of war it can be quite interesting for a large country to print a lot of banknotes and spread them in the economy of an adversary country to destabilize its economy. But putting apart the above mentioned news article I wasn't able to find evidences of such a scenario so my question is :

Are there historical cases of country A printing the currency of country B for the main purpose of economic warfare ?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bernhard (an exercise by Nazi Germany to forge British bank notes. The initial plan was to drop the notes over Britain to bring about a collapse of the British economy during the Second World War. ) $\endgroup$ – user161005 Jul 21 at 10:30
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @user161005 Please post answers as answers. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 21 at 10:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1) i’ve heard media reports to this effect, but they were never verified. 2) Counterfeiting is likely only useful to support intelligence operations in countries that are functional. Otherwise, the flow of notes is in institutional hands, and new inflows would stand out. In countries where the banking system is non-functional, counterfeiting might be easier. $\endgroup$ – Brian Romanchuk Jul 21 at 11:09
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ At History.SE: Has a state ever “attacked” another one by printing fake money? $\endgroup$ – Kenny LJ Jul 21 at 14:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Plenty of. For example Napoleon attempted to do so during his campaign in Russia: museum.goznak.ru/en/content/news/227 . There is also a rather comprehensive list here: currency_den.tripod.com/War_Counterfeits/war.html $\endgroup$ – Dan M. Jul 22 at 13:37
38
$\begingroup$

Very obscure historical example:

From 1287 to 1295, the Danish nobleman Stig Andersen Hvide was leading a band of outlaws from the island of Hjelm supported by the king of Norway against the king of Denmark. Stig managed to kidnap expert coin makers and bring them to Hjelm, where they produced counterfeit Danish coins.

This allowed Stig and his supporters to buy up all the supplies they wanted in Danish merchant cities. The heavy inflation and the problems it caused for the Danish economy made it difficult for the Danish king to afford assembling an army against Stig.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
29
$\begingroup$

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bernhard (an exercise by Nazi Germany to forge British bank notes. The initial plan was to drop the notes over Britain to bring about a collapse of the British economy during the Second World War. )

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for this answer, I wasn't aware of this operation and thanks to the link I was able to find additional information regarding "superdollars" and "Number Nine Research Laboratory". I validated the answer of Ole Krarup because the operation he describes has the bonus point to have succeeded its destabilization purpose. $\endgroup$ – Genorme Jul 22 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yes and and Bernhard was the basis the 1981 TV comedy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_Schulz… both very funny and also quite likely fairly accurate as far as techniques and tactics went. Quite separately, the Smithsonian Channels's serial documentary, Civl War, almost suggests the US forged Confederate currency… and certainly says large-scale forgers were caught because their fake CSA notes were of a much higher quality than the genuine articles! $\endgroup$ – Robbie Goodwin Jul 23 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Can you extend your answer to contain more information? $\endgroup$ – Ave Jul 23 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ "Hitler's Phony Fivers"... this was my first thought as well. $\endgroup$ – Andy Jul 24 at 0:21
12
$\begingroup$

David Petruccelli writes in "Banknotes from the Underground: Counterfeiting and the International Order in Interwar Europe"

In December 1925, a group of Hungarian nationalists were caught trying to put into circulation a large quantity of counterfeit francs in a bid to weaken the French economy and fund irredentist action in Central Europe.

Edit:
Though not officially sanctioned by the government of Hungary, some high ranking officials were involved. Quoting from Andor Klay's "Hungarian Counterfeit Francs: A Case of Post-World War I Political Sabotage":

...the nation's highest-ranking police official, Nadosy, admitted to the ministers of justice and interior that he had personally issued special documentation for the arrested "couriers." Next it became known that a former minister of supplies, Prince Lajos Windischgraetz, was also implicated.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how it's relevant. If non-state actors were printing fake money, then it was economic terrorism, not economic warfare. $\endgroup$ – user161005 Jul 21 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ "some high ranking officials were involved" And? How does it make warfare between States? Or do you mean that the rest of the government knew about actions of said high-ranking officials and wasn't interfering because it was OK with said actions? $\endgroup$ – user161005 Jul 21 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ If you read Andor Klay's linked article you'll see that this is ambiguous. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 21 at 17:20
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I like the example even if it was not condoned by the commander in chief of the belligerent state. There is also a similar answer to the similar question on History. Also, if you find my example a poor one, I don't mind. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 21 at 17:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @user161005 - The consensus among historians is that both the current and the previous prime ministers were aware, although not personally involved. While still not technically officially endorsed by the state, practically, you can't come much closer than that... $\endgroup$ – Gábor Jul 24 at 12:36
-1
$\begingroup$

Slightly different but perhaps relevant. A friend of mine spent some time during the late 1960s transporting counterfeit American Express Travelers Checks into Laos, that the CIA was using to fund its operations. He traveled on US military transport aircraft from Saigon to the capital of Laos (whose name I forget). The amount was significant, suitcases full. Apparently this was done with the tacit acceptance of American Express. He never told me who he passed them to in Laos but I presume some warlord paid for them with discounted cash, and I suppose that they stayed in Laos being used as a medium of exchange, and were rarely if ever presented to AmEx for redemption.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This just appears to be a method to covertly get funds to a field operation, not an attempt to destabilize the economy by injecting extra fake currency into it. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Jul 22 at 9:43
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ If AmEx consents to it, is it truly counterfeiting? $\endgroup$ – Acccumulation Jul 23 at 1:41

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.