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Businessman flushed £20 notes down toilet after bank wrongly told him they were fake

Banks in the Western Isles became suspicious of the notes prompting an inquiry by police who have so far found no fake money.

Fake or real? 'Counterfeit' cash found to be genuine after bank alert.

A businessman tore up and flushed a handful of £20 notes down the toilet after his bank told him they were fake - only for police to later tell him later they were genuine.

The man, who does not wish to be named, was among a number of businessman led to believe their cash was counterfeit on the Western Isles after bank staff became suspicious of £10 and £20 notes.

A police inquiry was launched on the Isle of Lewis three weeks ago amid fears of a well-organised counterfeiting operation.

At one stage two people were detained by police during the operation which began when the town's banks, RBS and Bank of Scotland, began refusing notes claiming they were counterfeit.

This was followed by many of the local shops which stopped accepting £10 and £20 notes and purchased ultra-violet scanners in a bid to catch the counterfeit notes.

The businessman said: "This is a right mess and it was caused by the RBS and Bank of Scotland. I am fairly sure this is all about their failure to properly train their local staff on how to spot fake notes.

"I tore up the £20 notes returned to me by the bank as fakes and I put them down the toilet to stop them getting back into circulation. I thought that was my public duty. How do I prove that and who is going to compensate me?"

A number of the "fake" notes have been scrutinised by experts from the Serious Organised Crime Agency who have notified Stornoway Police the notes are all absolutely genuine.

Northern Constabulary said officers received the notes from both shopkeepers and the banks and could confirm the notes returned were geniune.

Western Isles area inspector, Robbie MacDonald, said: "When local police were made aware that a quantity of notes were being refused by banks in the Western Isles, as they believed them to be counterfeit, we issued warnings to the public and requested any incidents were reported to ourselves at Northern Constabulary.

"A relatively small number of notes were handed into us and we liaised with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), who are able to authenticate currency.

"To date, all the notes we dealt with through SOCA have been found to be genuine and they will be returned to the complainers, however, further notes still await examination and will be forwarded as soon as possible. In the meantime, we would encourage any organisation or individual with concerns to contact us immediately."

A spokesman for Bank of Scotland said: "We found what we thought were inconsistencies with some banknotes and as a precaution we set these notes aside so they were no longer in circulation.

"We have robust procedures in place which are standard across the industry. Where we believe there is a chance banknotes are counterfeit, as a precaution we will always remove these from circulation until further testing proves they are genuine.

"We have always followed the security guidelines from the Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers website."

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