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The E-Sylum (8/18/2013)

Book Content

Making money (by printing it) is an old and well-respected profession. But it's not all glamour and state dinners. Here's an excerpt from an interview with banknote printer De La Rue executive Douglas Denham. -Editor

Douglas Denham Producing billions of banknotes every year, the Basingstoke-based firm has rolled off more than 150 national currencies in the past five years. But where does that money go? And what happens when a revolution breaks out? We asked De La Rue’s commercial legal director, Douglas Denham about the modern money-making business – and what on earth happens to the readies in a warzone.

At the height of the Libyan revolution in 2011 Denham found himself on a propeller plane flying into the Libyan city of Benghazi. De La Rue had been the incumbent printer of Libya’s currency but when Colonel Gaddafi was toppled in October the UN imposed sanctions and the money was seized.

“It was an intense six months for the legal team as we effectively had two competing governments – the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the Gaddafi regime – both claiming their appointees were the lawful representatives of the Central Bank of Libya, and they wanted their notes back,” explains Denham, who joined De La Rue as a legal adviser 18 years ago. “We had to decide who the lawful government was, who was in control of the central bank and who was recognised by other governments. We had to balance the challenges of public international law and the ‘recognition characteristics’ of the legal government with our contractual legal responsibilities and potentially new people coming into power.”

These are an unusual set of questions for a lawyer – questions that do not get answered from a comfortable office in Basingstoke.

After the sanctions were put in place Denham flew to Benghazi with Hogan Lovells partner Jeremy Brittenden, who was advising the NTC on a bid to have 1.86bn Libyan dinar (£948m) flown back to the country.

“When the pilot told us we were going to have to do a ‘corkscrew’ landing because of the risk of missile attack, it brought home to me the realities and dangers of war,” Denham recalls. “We were then warned that our biggest risk on the ground was between vehicle and destination – we could get shot at between the plane and our car, or between our car and our hotel – it was very out of the ordinary for a lawyer to be in that situation.”

Maybe so, but for De La Rue’s small legal team – consisting of Denham, who reports to general counsel Ed Peppiatt, two lawyers, one trainee and two support staff – there are very few ordinary situations on their travels.

Denham has visited more than 30 countries since joining the business and has travelled everywhere from Mongolia – “where it was -40 degrees in the night” – to Haiti, “where my hotel room walls were covered in bulletholes”.

He has advised on the production of banknotes after political change, including the new Libyan notes in February and the new Iraqi dinars printed in 2003.

To read the complete article, see: In-house interview: Danger money (

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