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Face value, print quality gave away fake travelers check – witness

04 March 2019

Specimen of a USD100 Thomas Cook traveler's cheque 

 By Vir B. Lumicao


A money exchange staff knew the wad of travelers checks that a Filipino male tourist presented in February last year was fake because, she said, the bank in London that supposedly issued the instruments did not have a US$1,000-denominated check.

Travelex Worldwide Money sales consultant Lim Ming-yee was testifying on the first day of trial on Mar 4 in District Court of the defendant, Noel Rambuyon.

The 39-year-old tourist was charged with “using false instruments” for allegedly trying to cash US$50,000 worth of travelers checks at a Travelex Worldwide Money shop in Central on Feb 6 last year.

Rambuyon denied the charge when his plea was again taken at the opening of the three-day trial presided over by Judge Stanley Chan.

The prosecutor said the defendant was arrested by police called by other Travelex staff after he approached the counter at 4:25pm and asked if they changed travelers checks.

When staff Lily Wong said yes, Rambuyon allegedly presented the bundle of Thomas Cook travelers checks.
Wong showed the bundle to Lim and asked if the checks were genuine, but the witness accordingly said, “No, that is a counterfeit one.”

The prosecution lawyer asked Lim how she could tell that the checks were fake, and she said she first noticed the denomination, then saw that the printing and paper used were of low quality and the numbers and watermark were faded.
“We don’t have $1,000 travelers check at Thomas Cook. American Express do have them but not Thomas Cook,” said Lim.

Thomas Cook issues 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500-dollar travelers checks, but never a US$1,000, the witness said, adding she had undergone training on handling all kinds of such documents.

The prosecutor said Rambuyon, who arrived from Manila on Feb 5, initially told police that the checks were owned by his father. Then in a recorded interview on Feb 7, he said the checks were given to him by his father, who died in September 2015.
Then the defendant said in another statement that the checks were not given directly to him but that he found them among his father’s personal belongings after the latter died.

A police forensic examination found that the traveler’s checks were fake.

But the defense lawyer told the court on Mar 4 that Thomas Cook, the London-based banking company that used to issue the instruments, has not confirmed whether the checks that Rambuyon presented were fake or genuine.

Prosecutors told the Eastern Court in a hearing last year that Thomas Cook, which has sold its foreign exchange operation to Travelex, said it had stopped printing since 2002 the type of traveler’s checks that Rambuyon allegedly attempted to exchange.

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