The 500-escudo banknotes of plate 2 were instrumental in a fraud with unique characteristics that became known as the ‘Angola and Metrópole case’ or ‘Alves Reis case’. Using forged contracts, Alves Reis introduced in Portugal hundreds of thousands of illegal banknotes of this type, some of which were to be known as ‘camarões’ (shrimp).
Banco de Portugal
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Banco de Portugal decided to pay to the bearer more than 209,700 illegal banknotes of 500 escudos, plate 2, although it was not legally obliged to pay them, and that the total value of these banknotes corresponded to 0.78% of the estimated Gross Domestic Product for 1925?
On 7 December 1925, the Board of Banco de Portugal unexpectedly announced the withdrawal of the 500-escudo banknotes of plate 2. This drastic measure was taken after the discovery of banknotes of this type, in Porto, having the same serial numbers.
At first sight, the discovery pointed to a typical case of banknote counterfeiting. However, there was nothing typical at all in this case. First of all because it was virtually impossible to distinguish the duplicate banknotes from one another. And that for a good reason: the duplicates were produced by the same company that had printed the legal notes issued by Banco de Portugal, using the same type of paper, the same security features and partly the same printing plates.
As a matter of fact, a group led by Artur Alves Reis had obtained from the English printer Waterlow & Sons 580,000 notes of 500 escudos, plate 2, using forged contracts allegedly signed between Alves Reis and the Angolan high commissioner on the one hand, and the high commissioner and Banco de Portugal, on the other hand.
This banknote belongs to the second of the illegal issues put in circulation by Alves Reis group. It was probably issued from September 1925 on by Banco de Angola e Metróple, a bank established by Alves Reis group in July that year.
Unlike the other illegal banknotes, this one has an odd colour. In fact, we know that part of those banknotes was submitted to a lemon juice bath with the purpose of removing their smell of fresh ink and aging them artificially. The resulting colour change exposed their criminal origin and recalled the colour of shrimp. This was the reason why these banknotes became known as ‘camarões’ (shrimp).