About 5,600 dubious 500 pieces have turned up recently.
Japan Post has stopped accepting coin deposits at many of its post-office ATMs after about 5,600 likely counterfeit 500-yen coins were found in the machines, sources said Thursday.
A 46-year-old man was placed on a wanted list Thursday by the Kumamoto prefectural police for allegedly using the fake money in a post office in Kumamoto city.
Dubious coins have been discovered at post offices and other financial institutions in Tokyo as well as Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures since late last month, Finance Ministry officials said.
The coins are almost identical to the new 500-yen coins that were introduced in the spring of 2000, and difficult to discern as false by the naked eye.
While about 10,000 more of the 500-yen coins are now being examined for authenticity, only five have been confirmed to be fakes so far.
On Thursday, the Japan Mint declared five coins counterfeit that were handed to the Bank of Japan, ministry officials said.
Those bogus coins were basically the same kind as 49 counterfeit 500-yen coins discovered at banking institutes in Japan and in packages mailed from China between last April and January.
Japan Post announced Thursday that all ATMs at post offices in Tokyo and the two prefectures will not accept any coins for the time being.
The dubious 500-yen coins were first discovered among the coins collected from ATMs at two post offices in central Fukuoka.
Thirty-eight dubious coins, including the five declared counterfeit by the Japan Mint, had been found as of Jan. 27, Finance Ministry officials said.
In Kumamoto Prefecture, nine more dubious coins were found at a branch of a private financial institute, sources said.
The fake coins contain copper, nickel and zinc, but their component percentages differ from authentic coins.
The fake coins are marked ``Heisei 13,'' which is the year 2001. They are less glossy than the real ones. Also, some of the marks and designs are either lacking or different from authentic coins, officials said. The inside areas of the two zeros in ``500,'' for example, are missing an imprinted mark that says ``500 yen.'' The special design is for detecting forgery.
Japan Post officials said a massive amount of dubious 500-yen coins was deposited in several postal savings accounts over several days late last month in Tokyo and the two prefectures of Fukuoka and Kumamoto. Right after the coins were deposited, the money was withdrawn in banknotes at ATMs in the same region, Japan Post officials said.
``This is an abnormal move,'' an official said.
Japan Post found that a total of 15,565 of the 500-yen coins were deposited in the postal savings accounts, including 9,992 coins deposited in Tokyo. Among them, 5,583 were earmarked as probably counterfeit either by post office cashiers or special tracking devices in the ATMs.
Police investigators suspect the group that made the coins has metal-processing expertise and might have produced a large amount of the fakes.(IHT/Asahi: February 4,2005)