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Gang 'counterfeited nearly pounds 50m' Scrap of paper led to arrests, trial told.

Three men accused of taking part in one of the biggest counterfeiting operations ever seen by the Bank of England went on trial yesterday at Winchester Crown Court.

Edward Burns (67), Kenneth Mainstone (61), and Anthony Wilkie (59), are alleged to have been part of a conspiracy which is said to have produced more than half the counterfeit currency circulating in the country since 1994.

Mr Stephen Parish, prosecuting, told the jury of six men and six women how the three defendants had conspired with men called Stephen Jory and Bernard Farrier.

He said: "On a summer day in 1998 police officers with a search warrant visited a modest house in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.

"What they were to find there led to the unveiling of one of the biggest counterfeiting operations known to the Bank of England.

"It is estimated that something like 60 per cent or two-thirds of all the counterfeit currency in circulation in this country since 1994 is attributable to the actions of this gang which was arrested in what was codenamed by police Operation Mermaid.

"The face value of counterfeit currency that this gang had either distributed or was in the process of distributing was not far short of pounds 50 million."

Mr Parish told the jury how Mainstone, of Sunnings Lane, Upminster, Essex, and Mr Jory had been the "main players" in the operation.

He said Mainstone was an "outwardly respectable" businessman who owned a printing company, while Mr Jory had connections with the underworld and was able to arrange for the cash to be distributed.

Mr Parish said that Burns, of Douglas Road, Ilford, Essex, had been responsible for supplying the paper, adding that he was "fully aware of the use it was to be put to".

The jury heard how Wilkie, of Cumbrian Way, Downley, High Wycombe, Bucks, was a toolmaker who allegedly supplied equipment for making perforations in fake stamps, another aspect of the multi-million pound operation.

Wilkie was also accused of conspiring in a plan to mint one pound coins, but Mr Parish said this was "nipped in the bud" when the gang was arrested in August last year.

The court was told how fake pounds 20 and pounds 50 notes seized at Mr Farrier's home at Broadfields Avenue, Cowes, Isle of Wight, were linked with an earlier batch of counterfeit cash for which Mr Jory was arrested in December 1994.

Mr Parish told the jury how on August 19 Mr Jory was arrested after he was caught exchanging pounds 736,000 worth of fake notes for pounds 15,575 in real cash with a man called Martin Watmough.

The jury was also told how three pieces of scrap paper led to the gang's downfall.

An advert for a caravan company found in a bag of fake notes was later discovered to have been printed at Mainstone's home-based printing company, Intec Graphics.

A "shopping list" for a printing press was discovered in Mr Jory's Jaguar, and a list of serial numbers linked to the fake notes was found on a printing press at Mainstone's firm.

Mr Parish said the forgeries had been "excellent" adding it was a "supreme irony" that the pieces of scrap paper had led to their arrests.

The court was told how members of the gang used nicknames, such as Biggles, Foxy and Buzz to communicate with each other on pagers.

Mr Parish explained to the jury that Mr Jory, Mr Farrier and Mr Watmough were not defendants in the trial, stressing that the jurors "must not speculate about them".

Mainstone and Burns deny charges of conspiracy to counterfeit currency notes between January 1, 1994 and August 20, 1998.

Mainstone and Wilkie deny conspiracy to commit forgery, a charge relating to stamps, between January 1 and August 20 1998, and Wilkie denies a further charge of conspiracy to counterfeit protected coins with intent between the same dates.

The trial continues.
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Author:Paterson, Graeme
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 8, 1999
Words:655
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