Alves dos Reis printed himself real money
Alves dos Reis was born in Lisbon in 1896. And when he was 28 years old he printed himself so much money that he caused an economic crisis that led to a nationalist military coup d’etat.
Reis forged a contract with the Bank of Portugal that authorized him to print a new set of banknotes and approached the company that previously printed Bank of Portugal notes, Waterlow and Sons, to make all the new cash.
As the printers used legit, original plates to print the banknotes, the forgeries were perfect.
Reis had 200,000 bank notes printed, worth almost 1% of Portugal’s entire GDP, comparable to publishing about 2 billion USD in currency today. At one point, nearly half of the 500 escudos notes were fake.
In fact, Reis had so much money, the businesses, real estate, and luxury goods he bought created a boom in the economy.
Reis used a bank he acquired in Angola, a Portuguese colony at the time, to launder the money before, brilliantly, he attempted to buy himself a stake in the Bank of Portugal to retroactively approve his unauthorized notes.
Eventually, Reis was found out by journalists of O Século, a newspaper owned by tycoon Alfredo de Silva, who saw Reis as a competitor.
The extent of Reis’ conspiracy was so large that few believed it could have been carried out by a single person. The government and the courts suspected that not only corrupt employees of the National Bank could have helped Reis, but that he also had support from the German government in an attempt to take over control of Angola.
Reis received a 20-year prison sentence, of which he only served 15. He died of a heart attack in 1955.