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Hezbollahs “Super Dollars” ( phony $100 bills )

Robert Fisk: Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon is winning the loyalty of disaffected Shia

Published: 24 August 2006

Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran.

Hizbollah has already won the war for "hearts and minds". Most householders in the south have received - or are receiving - a minimum initial compensation payment of $12,000 (£6,300), either for new furniture or to cover their family's rent while Hizbollah construction gangs rebuild their homes. The money is being paid in cash - almost all in crisp new $100 bills - to up to 15,000 families across Lebanon whose property was blitzed by the Israelis, a bill of $180m which is going to rise far higher when reconstruction and other compensation is paid.

In the 20sqkm of Beirut's southern suburbs which have been destroyed or badly damaged in 35 days of Israeli bombing, 500,000 residents - most of them Shia - lost their homes. But money is being poured in. For example, one Shia owning four floors of an apartment block, Hussein Selim, has already received $42,000 in cash for his possessions and lost furniture. And Hizbollah has pledged to rebuild the entire municipal area from its own - or perhaps Iran's - funds.


Iran is an important centre of the global counterfeiting industry. Several Iranian attempts to flood the world market with high-quality fake US dollar notes were uncovered during the 1990s. These presses were operated in homes and workshops, and specialized in various lines of production, in particular high-quality fake 100-dollar bills.

forged money


Counterfeiting money

The Iranian and Syrian roles

Iran is an important center of the global counterfeiting industry. Several Iranian attempts to flood the world market with high-quality fake US dollar notes were uncovered during the 1990s. However, the volumes circulated were not such as could severely harm the American economy.

Iran’s relative advantage in this respect is its access to advanced technologies, which enable it to produce fake 100-dollar bills of outstanding quality (the so-called “Super Dollars” or “Super Notes”). The manufacture of “Super Dollars” requires a combination of photogravure printmaking, sophisticated printing blocks, special ink and paper, proficiency in color separation, and the technical ability to reproduce security features (e.g., security stripes). These technologies and know-how are typical of national authorities, not of terror and crime organizations, let alone individuals. Iran owes these advanced capabilities to none other than the United States, who supplied them to the Shah’s regime; the Ayatollahs’ regimes employed them to forge American money.

In order to ward off incriminating evidence and avoid an entanglement with the United States, Iran chose to use Hezbollah (and possibly other Lebanese elements as well) as personnel for the manufacture and circulation of counterfeit notes. To this effect, Iran shipped counterfeit notes to Lebanon and supplied it with advanced technologies. In the early 1990s, “Super Dollar” notes surfaced in Lebanon’s Bekaa. It seems that in the initial stage these notes were printed in Tehran, and Lebanon was used only as distribution center. However, at some point in the early 1990s, Iran provided Lebanon with intaglio machines, and the Baalbek region in Syrian-controlled Bekaa became a production and marketing center of “Super Dollar” notes.

On June 15, 1996, Elaine Sciolino and Douglas Jehl published an article in the New York Times about Syria’s support of terrorism titled “Syrian’s [sic] Game: Both Ends Against the Middle” [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E16F73C5D0C768DDDAF0894DE494D81]. The article refers among other things to the Syrian support of the drug and money counterfeiting “industries” in Lebanon. The following is an excerpt from the article, which appeared under the heading “A blind eye to drugs and counterfeiting”:

“Syria also tolerates the counterfeiting of $100 bills in the Bekaa. The Bekaa and other parts of Lebanon have produced high-quality fake $100 bills for years. In recent years, the Lebanese and the Syrian authorities have uncovered offset presses and confiscated millions of dollars and other currencies. But American officials are much more worried about “super notes”, phony $100 bills made with rag cotton paper and printed on huge, sophisticated intaglio machines used by the United States. The first “Super Note” surfaced in Hong Kong in 1989, but they appeared shortly afterwards in the Bekaa, Treasury Department officials said.

President Clinton raised the issue of counterfeiting – particularly the “Super note” – with Assad at their meeting in Geneva in January 1994, asking for help in uncovering the network. Christopher has asked the same question several times since.”

Following American pressure on Syria at the most senior levels (e.g., during the Clinton-Assad meeting in 1994), the intaglio machines used for the manufacture of “Super Dollars” were moved from Lebanon to another country. This happened in the mid-1990s, but the counterfeiting “industry” is still alive.

Hezbollah as producer and distributor of forged notes

During the second half of the 1990s, money counterfeiting in the Bekaa region continued to thrive. However, though the fake dollars were still of high quality, they did not match the standards of the “Super Dollar”. In this “industry”, Hezbollah plays a prominent role, while joining forces with criminal elements and taking advantage of its powerful position in the Bekaa and its relations with Iran and Syria.

The Bekaa region is the heart of the counterfeiting “industry” in Lebanon. The Hezbollah-controlled town of Brital, south of Baalbek (which is home to a population of some 7,000 Shiites) is the main center of money counterfeiting. In the second half of the 1990s, Brital housed an estimated ten to fifteen printing presses. These presses were operated in homes and workshops, and specialized in various lines of production, in particular high-quality fake 100-dollar bills. In the past they also produced fake 20-dollar and 50-dollar bills as well as fake currency of other Western and Arab countries, of varying qualities. Reports from the last two years confirm that the counterfeiting “industry” in Bekaa is still thriving, and that Hezbollah as well as criminal elements are involved in it♠.

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