If one were going to counterfeit a circulating currency, the Yemeni Rial seems like it would be among the last choices. A war-torn country with the worst economy in the Middle East and substantial inflation, Yemen’s Rial is not even widely traded internationally, unsurprising given the country is under a Saudi-led blockade which makes commerce all but impossible.
Still, the US Treasury Department is claiming that Iran’s Quds Force engaged in a massive counterfeiting scheme involving the Yemeni rial, and is imposing sanctions on several companies in Iran and Europe claimed to be involved in getting them the equipment to do so.
The amount of money that would have to be counterfeited to make this happen would be absolutely staggering. The Treasury Department claims the Quds Force raised hundreds of millions of dollars, but the highest denomination bill, the 1,000 rial note, is worth less than $4.
It’s not clear how much paper money from Yemen is in circulation overall, but considering that even Yemenis have long preferred other mediums of exchange, hundreds of millions of dollars worth would seemingly have to be a non-trivial portion of the overall money in circulation. This seems an incredibly ill-conceived targeted for counterfeiting at that level, and given the minimal trade Yemen has even in the best of times, it’s hard to image how that much money could be pumped into Yemen without it sticking out like a sore thumb.
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