On ink to combat the problem of fake printing of passports and counterfeit currencies was recently discovered in India by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and National Physical Laboratory.
The ink, called Bi-luminescent security ink, contains a new security feature to protect against duplicity. It consists of a “single excitable dual emissive luminescent pigment” developed based on the “concept of fluorescence and phosphorescence phenomena.”
A statement from India’s Ministry of Science and Technology on the ink developed to curb the high risk of illegal duplication of some currency denominations in the country indicated that it could be used to check the authenticity of passports, government documents, tamper-evident labels, identity cards, among others.
The ink was said to “glows in red and green colors when illuminated by two different excitation sources at 254 nanometers and 365 nm, respectively. The ink was prepared in a batch of 1kg and given to Bank Note Press, Dewas, a unit of Security Printing Minting Corporation of India Ltd. New Delhi. The ink is found comparable to the standards that are in use.”
Currencies and documents printed with the ink appeared as white under ambient light, revealing a red color when exposed to ultraviolet light and green when the ultraviolet light is turned off.
However, this invention does not negate the effectiveness of existing security features such as fibers, shiny dots, and ultraviolet inks, among others, to authenticate and prevent forgery of documents. Rather, it serves as more protective layers to drastically reduce forgery while promoting authenticity.
Cases of documents and currency forgery are not uncommon in Nigeria. School certificates to other vital documents are forged in the country.
The Nigerian passport, printed by Iris Smart Technologies Limited, is stated as the best proof of identity and has 22 security features to “discourage criminal intentions.” The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, stated in 2019 that the new passport would be integrated with the National Identification Number and Biometric Verification Number to end multiple identities.
But a global ranking in March 2022, according to data from the International Air Transport Association, placed the Nigerian passport 98th out of 199 countries with The Gambia, Malawi, and Niger ranking 75th, 76th and 90th, respectively. The ranking is based on several indices. But the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Standards and Regulations ranked the Nigerian passports in tandem with international best practices.
However, in April this year, reports noted that a United States court sentenced a Nigerian prince, Sobanke Adereti, to 33 months in federal prison for passport fraud and attempted bank fraud.
Adereti’s check and passport presented during a bank account opening were detected as fake by the bank and led to his arrest.
Also, in 2021, the News Agency of Nigeria reported that the Nigerian Embassy and Consulates-General in the United States raised an alarm over a phoney website, www.nigerianpassports.com, for passport applications. The site paraded as a Nigerian International Passport processing platform directed applicants to make payments through a payment portal, cell.
Before now, several cases have been reported on the ease of obtaining a fake passport, a genuine improperly issued passport and or altered passport. Cases show that passport forgery still thrives and criminals find ways to bypass security features.
In another vein, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s website stated that producing and spending counterfeit currency was a form of fraud or forgery. It described it as an imitation of currency produced without the legal sanction of the state or government.
The apex bank in 2016 said it had been able to reduce the prevalence of counterfeit notes to “less than one per cent (0.0014 per cent) or 14 counterfeit pieces out of one million bank notes” through the application of security features on the notes and sensitization of the public.
Currently, the security features on the naira notes are the raised print, security thread and watermark. The CBN added that the serial number on each banknote turned green under ultraviolet light.
The advantage of the bi-luminescent ink is its multiple ways to provide authenticity.
Nonetheless, bypassing the security features on the passports and currency imitation is a call for further layers of security and sophistication.
Some stakeholders in the security printing industry proffered measures to enhance the detection of fake documents and counterfeit currencies.
Speaking on the invention, a branch manager with a digital printing company, Digital Dynamics Printing company, Jimmy Etuk, stated that the bi-luminescent ink which could make detection easy under ambient light would also make duplication easily done.
He noted that the “mercury light bulb which functioned as the ultraviolet light served as an X-ray to show the quality and color of the ink used in printing money. It’s usually used to detect fake currencies and help to show the necessary watermark that should be present in the notes.”
Etuk further stated that the bi-luminescent security ink still needed a medium of detection different from the mercury light Nigeria currently used, adding that the availability and affordability should be considered before being adopted.
“People still produce fake notes because it cannot be detected by just feeling. The feeling will just call one’s attention to the quality and whenever one suspects any money, one has to pass it through the UV light,” he added.
Also, an operation engineer with a security financial card and ID printing company who spoke on condition of anonymity said that although the adoption of the ink was feasible in Nigeria, measures should be put in place to ensure local production and adoption.
The engineer added, “The ink is a new innovation that would be helpful if there are available devices that would be used for detection but would the device be readily available as accessible for testing?
“When trying to secure an environment and bring in a solution to help minimize fraud or authenticate processes, one has to look at what works well in the environment and what is available to work in that system. If we bring the one from India, the structure in India might not be the same in Nigeria so we need to apply our present situation to develop a solution to make it work effectively. We can start with theirs but we need to introduce our own system.”
He also said that an accurate and updated database was needed to ensure the seamlessness and effectiveness of document verification.
“For passports, we can always do an integration process since every passport has a unique ID but do we have a strong and reliable database to verify details? First, we need to have an accurate database that takes all the unique ID and information of each user for a particular passport or document. Then we can now track it back to verify whether the information on the IDs tallies with the carrier. The security features with appropriate devices that can promptly access the database were necessary,” the engineer said.
On the detection of counterfeit currencies, he added that a “machine called D&D comes with chemical solutions integrated into the system to help detect fake notes. Before now, notes were just passed through the blue light and many fake notes passed through it undetected because people have found a way of getting it more authenticated like the original.”
The engineer emphasized the need for an effective, updated, modified database, urging the availability of reliable, effective and durable detection devices.