Last Tuesday evening, I left work, heading into town. My journey however, was brought to an abrupt stop when a fight erupted between the taxi conductor and a passenger at Kimicanga.
A young man, 20-25 years old wanted to use the advantage of darkness to give the conductor a fake Frw5,000 bank note. Fortunately the conductor detected it immediately.
The young man was denying the note, saying he had given him legal tender. In the midst of their fight, a policeman intervened and took the young man, identified as James Gakwaya, a resident of Kimironko.
François Gashumba, a conductor, says the problem of counterfeit money is increasing in the transport sector.
“We do receive a lot of fake money in our business,” he said.
“I don’t know how we shall over come this tragedy. We always get this fake money in the evening hours because most people think that we can’t detect it in the darkness.
“But if you are sober, you can easily identify a person with fake money because most of them put pressure on you, asking their balance before giving the first person balance,” he said.
Their aim is to confuse the taxi conductor and cheat them out of money. “Imagine a person wanting Frw4,900 from fake Frw5,000?” said Gashumba.
Aloys Gasore, the Leadership Forex Bureau manager, says fake currencies are easily detected at his bureau because they have detectors.
“We also use our hands to detect fake money,” said Gasore.
“You have to touch it and feel its texture. The texture of fake money is different from genuine money.” He said that the fake money cases are minimal at his Forex bureau, with only one or two occurrences per month.
“We always get one Frw5,000 note in a bundle of Frw5 million, so it is hard to identify which person forged the money because we get these bundles from banks or other big business institutions,” he said.
“I am sure these people do not intend to give us this money. They also get it in bulk from other financial institutions when they are in bundles and marked, so this discourages them to cross check, hence ending in our hands.”
He identified other fake currencies in Forex as US dollars, Euros, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania shillings and Burundian currencies.
He said after identifying the person with fake notes, they just tear it up to stop it from being circulated and write their identification for further investigation.
“We don’t take people to the police unless we identify the person as a con man,” said Gasore. “Some people bring the money when they are not aware that it is fake. Here we show them a no tolerance policy for other people to take notice.”
Gasore said some counterfeit francs are made in and outside Rwanda. Said Habiyambere, president of Duteraneinkunga Micro Finance says the problem of counterfeit notes can be solved by using detectors in all financial institutions.
“We need to sensitise our people not to rush when receiving money, but to analyse what type of money they have,” he said. “Instead of putting their emphasis on how much, they should put it on what type of money they have.”
François Kanimba, the governor of the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), said if counterfeit currency is not checked in time, it could hurt the economy and businesses. He called up all financial institutions to engage them in curbing the current circulation of fake currency.
The governor also said the government is in negations with Giesecke and Devrient, a German company which supplies notes to the Deutsche Bundesbank and 40 other central banks worldwide, to improve the quality of Rwanda’s currency and make it difficult to be forged.
BNR recently hired the company to train staff to detect forged currencies. The training targeted banks, the Forex bureau, and other financial institutions due to reports of counterfeited notes recently detected in the country.
The company also offers banknote paper, banknote security features, and automatic currency processing equipment
Marcel Willy Higiro, police spokesperson, said they no longer receive counterfeit money cases.
“We used to get these cases some time back, probably at the beginning of this year around January and February,” he said
Higiro said they had four cases of counterfeit money between January and February.
“All the people involved in these cases were foreigners, especially Congolese and Cameroonians,” he said.
“Since that time, we hardly get such cases.” Higiro attributed the decrease of counterfeit money to the good relationship between the police and the public.
“If a person is identified or suspected to be engaged in such activities, the people surrounding him are the ones who report him to us,” he said. If a person found guilty, is handed over to the police, they are charged with a criminal offence.
“Our work is to investigate the cases, not to charge the culprits,” said Higiro.
“The cases to such people are determined by the prosecution.” He called upon all Rwandan citizens to work hand-in-hand to wipe out this problem of counterfeit money by reporting any suspect, if their economy is to remain stable.
“There are machines which detect counterfeit currencies from all over the world,” Higiro said. “ So if every institution in Rwanda that deals in money circulation gets a machine, I think this problem will be wiped out completely in our economy.”