That is why the cashier checked the notes both using a special detector and by hand. The check verified the rupees as genuine, and Viljamaa was handed his money and left.
He returned a few days later, carrying 6,696 thousand-rupee notes or nearly 6.7 million. Once again the notes were checked and came back clean.
The cashier had to check the origin of the money, however, based on the money laundering and terrorism obstruction act. Viljamaa presented the cashier with a contract, according to which he had been given the rupees in exchange for a luxury vehicle – a Mercedes-Benz S63. Since both the contract and the rupees appeared genuine, Tavid handed Viljamaa a little over 87,000 euros.
Woman on holiday arrested
Problems surfaced some time later after Tavid had sold the notes on to one of its partners abroad that had in turn given them to a customer in the form of cash. Checks run by Tavid's partner also found the notes to be legitimate.
The fact that the notes were counterfeit came to light when the woman tried to sell the notes while traveling in India. She was arrested and her trip all but ruined when she tried to exchange currency at a local currency exchange office.
At the same time, Tavid was conducting a subsequent verification of the notes. Member of the supervisory board Meelis Atonen said that while initial checks did not reveal the notes to be counterfeit, subsequent verification managed to establish that was indeed the case. «Unfortunately we had bought in several batches by then. Human error,» Atonen explained.
He said that Tavid has drawn conclusions from the mistake and made some changes. «We had to change the way we operate and have to pay more attention to certain signs. Rupees are not a common currency in our region, which is what caused the accident.» Atonen added that he cannot divulge more details as it might benefit criminals.
Viljamaa was arrested and prosecuted soon after the crime. While both cases seemed straightforward at first, proceedings dragged on due to several reasons. Experts at the Estonian Forensic Science Institute (EKEI) had to check all 10,000 notes individually.
Head of the documents department at EKEI Kairi Kriiska-Maiväli said that the case was quite exceptional for the institute and took a month next to other projects.
She said that the fake rupees could be described as high-level forgeries. «The counterfeit notes have been produced industrially, mimicking the security elements of rupees and using paper very close to the original. The latter aspect was what made the counterfeit notes so difficult to recognize.»