Operation Merlin

[Sources: BBC News, 22 December 1999, this includes a link to a video download of a short news report; The Times, 23 December 1999; The Guardian, 23 December 1999 & 21 January 2000]

The BBC described this case as involving, "one of the biggest counterfeit currency rings ever to operate in Britain". Various members of this five member gang were involved in forgery of banknotes, one-pound coins and stamps. It was claimed that they printed, "two thirds of all forged currency in Britain over a four-year period".

The main focus of this group was bank note forgery. However two members of the group who were respectively based in Buckinghamshire and the Isle of Wight, also involved themselves in counterfeiting one-pound coins. There was no evidence that they had actually distributed any counterfeit coins but the police seized equipment including spark erosion equipment, brass alloy coils, coin blanks and what appeared to be practice attempts at reproducing the one-pound coin images.

A diagramatic
 representation of punching a coinage blank

A diagramatic representation of punching a coinage blank.

The brass alloy coils seized consisted of a simple binary brass alloy with a straw yellow colour. The strip was about 28.5mm wide and 3.1mm thick. This would have allowed one coinage blank to be punch out of every 25 to 30mm length of strip.

A story was recounted to the author that has not been possible to verify. This told of how when deciding whether to buy the spark erosion machine for "producing medallions" one of the accused took a one-pound coin out of his pocket and asked the company representative to demonstrate how well it functioned by copying the coin.

Two of the accused were convicted of conspirarcy to counterfeit protected coins. One died before sentencing, the other was sentenced to a total of 3 years and nine months including twelve months for the coinage offences. Three others were sentenced to 12 years, 8 years and 3 years respectively for conspiracy to counterfeit currency notes.


This was a very serious operation. This group had significant resources and technical expertise as shown in their currency note counterfeiting. It is reasonable to speculate that they would have produced good quality counterfeit coins and been able to distribute them.


Copyright Robert Matthews 2006

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This page was last updated in February 2006