There has been a drop in the number of counterfeit euro banknotes detected during 2016 compared to the previous two years, according to the latest figures from the European Central Bank (ECB).
In total, 684 thousand counterfeit banknotes were withdrawn from circulation during 2016, a 23.9% reduction from those withdrawn in 2015 and an 18.4% reduction from 2014.
The half year figures released in January by the ECB show that 353 thousand counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation during the second half of 2016. This is a small increase of 6.6% from that seen during the first half of the year whereby 331 thousand counterfeit notes were withdrawn.
However, the latest figures are much less (-20.7%) than that recorded during the same period in 2015 when 445 thousand notes were withdrawn, and even more so (-30.4%) compared to the same period in 2014 when 507 thousand counterfeit notes were withdrawn.
The most commonly counterfeited denomination was the €50 banknote at 42.5%, with €20 denominations following at 37.8%.
Of the other banknotes commonly used in everyday payment transactions, the figures for the €5 and €10 banknotes remain low at 0.8% and 3.7% respectively. Counterfeit banknotes of €100, €200 and €500 denominations were 9.7%, 0.6% and 4.9% respectively.
Practically all notes were found in euro area countries, with around 5.4% found in EU Member States outside of the euro area and 1% in other parts of the world.
Looking back at the past five year period, 2016 has seen a drop in the total number of euro counterfeits detected and withdrawn from circulation. This can in part be attributable to the release of the Europa series of banknotes that are gradually being issued into circulation. The new €5 began circulating in May 2013, the €10 in September 2014 and the €20 in November 2015. The new €50 will be issued into circulation by the ECB on 4 April 2017.