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The Uncle Sam sham scam involves $100 notes: we only had $1 notes

Phuket 'Scene of FBI, North Korean Arms Dealings'

Monday, August 24, 2009
SOME remarkable meetings take place on Phuket, and we are not talking Asean summits, even though it was good for the island to have US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drop by in July.

This particular meeting, reported for the first time today, is a different kind of gathering, more reminiscent of the one involving a Vietnamese lawyer who now stands accused of plotting to overthrow his country's leaders after meeting other alleged ''conspirators'' on Phuket.

Let's call it the Uncle Sam Sham Scam.

This gathering on the holiday island involved arms dealers and North Korean fake $100 notes, known as supernotes because of their high quality.

In a detailed account in the British newspaper, the Independent, author David Samuels describes an attempt by the FBI to track and arrest those involved.

Samuels says FBI agent Louie Calvarese travelled to Phuket along with a female agent who posed as his girlfriend.

The original all-male plan was that representatives from both sides ''would stay at the Le Meridien resort and enjoy the beaches and food, as well as the company of local women.''

''In Phuket, he met Jyimin 'Jimmy' Horng, a Chinese from Macau who had supposedly competed for China in judo in the Olympics and now worked for the North Korean government selling supernotes and weapons.

''He had connections to very high officials in the North Korean government,'' Calvarese remembered.

Samuels continues: ''When Horng quoted a price of $500 a piece for AK47 rifles, Calvarese objected that he had purchased the same guns in Russia for $100. Horng went off and called a contact in North Korea, and then returned with some bad news. '''Listen, it has to be $500,''' Calvarese remembers Horng saying. ''If I do it on my own through my contacts, the price could be lower but if we get caught my family is going to die, and my family's family is going to die.''

Horng offered Calvarese $5 million in supernotes, and sent him a half-inch thick catalogue translated from Korean that offered artillery shells, rocket launchers and other forms of advanced weaponry. Calvarese and [another FBI agent] Garcia met with Horng and Tang again in Atlantic City, and ordered $1 million in supernotes at a price of 30 cents on the dollar. Horng threw in another $2 million on consignment as well as some counterfeit Viagra.''

Phuket plays just a small part in what is an enthralling article on North Korea's role in counterfeiting and arms.

Samuels writes that according to people who regularly handled the bills, the North Korean fakes are so good and are updated with such regularity that the best way to tell that they are fakes is their superior quality.

One expert says the biggest victims of the supernotes are the Chinese, who have found that between two and four percent of the $100 bills circulating in some regions of the country are fake - a de facto tax on Chinese money changers by North Korean forgers.

Calvarese, who recently retired from the FBI, was asked about the connection between North Korea's black economy and the rogue dictatorship's nuclear proliferation.

''Its pretty scary,'' he says. ''I think everything is held together by a Band-Aid.''

Those kinds of conversations on Phuket certainly make talk about the weather and the price of tuk-tuks seem a little ordinary.

The full account can be found at independent.co.uk

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Re the article about so called "supernotes" by David Samuels, I have a number of observations:

1 Despite the impression given by the article, "supernotes" are detectable and not "super" at all; banks in AP are well able to detect them.

2 "Evidence" sourced mainly from Asher is unreliable to say the least. Asher is the godfather of frivolous and over-the-top accusations ge he once claimed that a North Korean cement freighter had rammed a container ship and blown itself up on a suicide mission, to commit insurance fraud. In reality the freighter was sliced in half by the container ship, and sank.

3 As per Klaus Bender, the Austrian/Swiss police are sure that neither the ink nor the printing presses necessary to print "supernotes" have been purchased by Korea.

4 Korea, despite Asher's assertion that it can't exist without using criminal means, does in fact have extensive trade with China (it exports minerals) in return for capital goods, food and indeed hard currency.

5 Do you not think it the slightest bit suspect that the neo cons gofer (Asher) manages to get the supernote story into the media again, just at the time that US Korean relations may actually be improving?

A similar article, again pushed by Asher, has appeared in Vanity Fair this month.

Coincidence?

Hardly.

He has done this before, each time US/Korea are at the point of reaching a deal.

6 At a monetary intelligence briefing sometime ago in Switzerland, Asher and UST entourage gave a presentation outlining their "evidence" (as such) wrt their accusations concerning "supernotes".

The participants (professionals in the field of forgery prevention and forensics etc) were appalled at the lack of evidence and poor research conducted by Asher and the UST team; ie Asher has no evidence.

To rely on this man as a source of "evidence" for this article is naive to say the least.

Asher's "theories" are rebutted in detail in this piece, published in 2007.

http://chinamatters.blogspot.com/2007/06/drop-in-bucket.html

The existence of North Korean counterfeits could be concealed from the world financial systems if they are only circulated in North Korea. So, if North Korea is counterfeiting vast quantities of US currency, maybe Kim Jung Il is doing it to build a palace from bricks of hundred dollar bills; an offense against good taste, perhaps, but hardly a casus belli.

Bottom line is, Mr. Asher's allegation that Supernotes of the type that have already been detected are circulating in large quantities thanks to the vagaries of the international cash system and the cupidity of bankers is extremely implausible.

And, parenthetically, where are our counterfeits coming from?

The number one source of counterfeits (measured by counterfeits seized) for the last four years running: Colombia.

Did Samuels not read it, or has he become so close to certain sections of the GOP/neo cons these days that he doesn't need to check the facts anymore?

Posted by DJ on August 24, 2009 19:49


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