It is only a matter of time before forgeries of the new 12-sided £1 coin enter circulation.
That was the claim made by Alan McQuillan, who was head of the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) until it was wound up in 2008.
The freshly minted currency, which was introduced yesterday, is said to be the most sophisticated and secure coin in the world, boasting hi-tech features such as a hologram.
But Mr McQuillan said fraudsters will already be hard at work trying to figure out how to produce elaborate forgeries.
The old coin became a problem as they were easily counterfeited. It is estimated that about 3% – one in every 30 of the old £1 coins – are fakes.
Former PSNI assistant chief constable Mr McQuillan told the News Letter: “The counterfeiting of the old £1 coin has been a problem throughout the UK, particularly in Northern Ireland where it has been distributed by paramilitaries.
“I recall several occasions where the ARA raided commercial premises and found tills filled with fake £1 coins. In one pub we raided, virtually every £1 coin we found was counterfeit.
“The quality of the forgeries varies dramatically, but if you know what to look for they are usually easy to spot.
“It is telling that the old £1 coin will cease to be legal tender in October; that shows how badly the government wants to get it off the streets.”
Mr McQuillan described counterfeiting as “big business” and said the introduction of a new, more secure £1 coin would help to “lighten the pockets” of organised crime gangs.
But he added it would only amount to a “small and short term” success, claiming that criminals would soon adapt.
“The authorities are constantly trying to keep one step ahead of fraudsters,” he added.
“Advances in technology have made it much easier for people to produce counterfeit currency.
“These days, it is unrealistic to expect any new currency to stay in circulation for more than about 10 years.
“We recently had the new £5 note introduced, which was supposed to make it harder for criminals to produce forgeries. But within 10 years someone will be making fake £5 notes. It is inevitable.”
The introduction of the new coins is expected to lead to early teething problems at coin-operated machines.
Consumers craving a snack or trying to park may face confusion when they attempt to pay at vending and ticket machines, as some will not immediately accept the new coin.
Tesco trolleys across many of its stores will be unlocked as the supermarket giant performs upgrades so that they can accept the new coin.
The new coin has been placed for sale online by sellers, with some wanting £10-plus and others asking three-figure sums for particular coins.
The arrival of the new coin could also prompt an upswing of fundraising drives by charities as people look to dispose of their old round pounds.
The legal status of the old round £1 coin will be withdrawn on October 15.