'Money Heist': Why you need a lot more than a 'professor' to take over the Royal Mint

With the fifth season all set to premiere, here’s an analysis of how much fact there is to this crime fiction


Omar Qureshi September 03, 2021

Streaming giant Netflix is all set to release the highly-anticipated fifth season of its critically-acclaimed crime drama series Money Heist this week. The much-awaited crime drama will return with a new instalment after the last season left fans with a cruel cliffhanger: the fate of The Professor's team hangs in balance.

While fans wait with bated breath to find out what is in store for their favourite characters, The Express Tribune takes a deep dive into the credibility of the plot, especially when it comes to questions of printing your own money. The first season of the show follows the plans of a criminal mastermind who goes by the name of ‘The Professor’ hatching a plan to take over the Royal Mint of Spain to print his own euros. 

Function of mints

To analyse the viability of such a scheme, it’s important to first come to grips with the primary function of mints and to understand how they work. 

The chief responsibility of mints around the world is to produce coins with the approval of the government of a country, which can then be used as legal tender. 

The majority of the countries in the world, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia, have separate bodies to produce coins and banknotes. However, the Royal Mint of Spain, the institution a the heart of Money Heist’s plot, is one of the few mints in the world which is authorised to print banknotes (euros) as well. This fact sets the premise of the drama.

Such countries approve a set quota of the number of coins and banknotes to be produced in the respective mint in a given time period, which is usually one month. Banknotes of smaller denominations such as €5 and €10 tend to have a higher rate of circulation than larger denominations like €500. The cumulative quota is determined by multiple factors including demonetisation of banknotes, scrapping of soiled notes, the requirement of money supply in an economy and inflation.

While banknotes can be printed illegally beyond the quota as reflected in the first season, when the team is shown printing €2.4 billion, the writers of the story may be benefiting from the power of fiction a bit too much. Such an outrageous action could potentially have grave consequences for the country and the financial system.

Consequences of illegal money printing

For the sake of our analysis, if we were to assume that such a robbery does take place in the real world, then the first victim of this scheme would be the country’s government since it will definitely come under fire and be criticised for its utter failure at protecting the economy. 

Secondly, the financial machinery would suffer as it would brace itself and enhance security, keeping in view that if the national mint could suffer a security lapse of this scale, then no financial institution could be termed safe and secure.

Finally, the economy of the country would suffer tremendously, as the money, a whopping  €2.4 billion if we are to believe the plot of Money Heist, would return to it in some way or another, with the over-supply of money ultimately creating immense inflationary pressure.

Also, the criminals probably wouldn’t be able to evade security all that easily, since pretty much the entire world would be on its toes to catch the culprits before they wreak havoc in another nation. 

Tracing of the money

While the show doesn’t take the tracing of money all that seriously, in today’s modern world, tracing stolen banknotes really isn’t all that difficult. To begin with, whenever a banknote is deposited in a bank, its serial number is recorded. In case of the heist in question, all concerned banks, money changers and other financial institutions would be alerted not to accept a series other than the one recommended by the central bank. Not to mention security checks at the airports would be tightened to recover the stolen money as well.

There are a handful of institutions that already record serial numbers of all banknotes that are deposited to them, which include casinos, money changers and, of course, banks. In such a scenario, they would tighten their guard to be on the lookout for the stolen banknotes.

To fight counterfeit, the introduction of an RFID chip in euro banknotes has also been on the cards for several years now, a move that would greatly assist in tracing any stolen currency. However, due to complications, this mechanism is yet to be implemented.

Safe havens

At the beginning of the third part of the series, the members of the gang are all shown to have relocated and are seemingly enjoying their stolen rewards. And while it may be difficult, it is not entirely impossible to achieve such a life. There are many tax havens that offer a lavish life to rich people in return for spending their questionable earning in their country. These destinations have relaxed financial laws and they ensure financial secrecy of the individuals as well.

Speaking about the fifth part of Money Heist, series creator Alex Pina shared, "When we began to write the fifth part in the midst of the pandemic, we felt we had to change what was expected from the 10-episode season and used every tool we could, to create the sensation of a season finale or series finale in the first volume itself. We decided to work in an extremely aggressive genre, putting The Gang on the ropes."

Originally titled La Casa de Papel (The House Of Paper), the Netflix series stars UIrsula Corbero, Alvaro Morte, Itziar Ituno, Pedro Alonso, Paco Tous, Alba Flores, Miguel Herran, Jaime Lorente, Esther Acebo, Enrique Arce, Maria Pedraza, Darko Peric and Kiti Manver among others. 

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