The number of forged euro banknotes in circulation increased last year, with some 594,000 counterfeit notes seized, an increase of 8% year-on-year, the European Central Bank said today.

Nevertheless, the number of forgeries was lower in the second half than in the first half, the ECB noted.

The number of counterfeit notes seized in the period from July to December stood at 287,000, down from 307,000 in the period from January to June.

Counterfeiters preferred the €50 banknote, which accounted for 48% of all forgeries seized last year, the ECB said. Next hottest favourite was the €20 note which accounted for 24% and the €100 note which accounted for 17%.

'The vast majority of counterfeit euro banknotes can be easily distinguished from genuine ones,' the ECB said.