Smithers Pira's Michael Chamberlain speaks to BBC News about the global banknote trade

Consultant Michael Chamberlain gives his comments on the global banknote trade, security printing and counterfeit money.

'How did Libyan money come to be printed in Britain?' Chris Summers BBC News, reports that 'the RAF has delivered £140m worth of Libyan banknotes back to the country after the downfall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.' But why is so much foreign currency printed in the UK?

It is perhaps unsurprising that De La Rue, the British firm which printed the 280 million Libyan dinars (£140m) returned this week, is somewhat reticent about its business. The banknotes were ordered by the Gaddafi regime a year ago but were seized following the imposition of sanctions by the United Nations.

When the rebels reached Tripoli and overthrew the Libyan leader, the UN agreed to lift sanctions and unfreeze some of the $20bn of assets the Libyan government had in the UK. A total of 1.86 billion dinars (£929m) would be returned. Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "The bank notes will be used to pay the wages of Libyan public sector employees, including nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers."

The cash will also be used to restock depleted cash machines across Libya.

Smithers Pira comments in this BBC report that the global banknote trade is very sizable. A total of 150 billion banknotes were printed last year, which is likely to rise to 162 billion this year and carry on rising, partially driven by increasing demand for cash in booming China.

Smithers Pira offers expertise in all forms of security print and paper technology including anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, banknote printing and personal identification. We serve high security printers, cheque printers, central banks, security technology developers, packaging converters, telecoms providers, Government and enforcement agencies with impartial and strictly confidential advice.

Our leading security technology and market consultancy is complemented by a range of specialist testing, evaluation and accreditation services. Smithers Pira is also a prolific and highly regarded publisher of major market reports on all aspects of the security printing and brand protection industries.

Smithers Pira's latest market study Future of Banknote Printing to 2016 provides quantitative market sizes and five year forecasts, expert insight on banknote substrates by manufacturer as well as an in-depth understanding of the key drivers and trends shaping the global banknote market.

In the BBC article, Smithers Pira consultant on print security, Michael Chamberlain, said 84% of the world's banknotes were printed by state-owned enterprises - but the remaining 16% included 76% of the world's currencies. Many countries, including Britain, the United States, Russia and China, will not allow their notes to be printed abroad.

The US dollar is printed at two federal government-owned sites, in Washington DC and Fort Worth, Texas. But many smaller countries approach De La Rue or its main rival, Giesecke & Devrient. The German firm's customers include Japan, Cambodia, Croatia and Guatemala. But De La Rue, based in Basingstoke, Hampshire, produces 150 foreign currencies as well as passports, driving licences and identity cards for several nations.

Another banknote customer is Saudi Arabia, which uses the face of King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud on all denominations except the 500 riyal. The Saudi king and Queen Elizabeth II are not the only heads of state to be used on banknotes, but it can be a problem when there is a regime change.

For the next couple of years Libyans will just have to put up with carrying around notes bearing the likeness of their fallen leader, just like Iraqis did with Saddam Hussein. Michael Chamberlain said: "They will have to use them but the new government is probably already thinking about issuing a brand new currency with the appropriate message on it."

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