The Greatest Fraud Ever? Artur Virgilio Alves dos Reis and the Portuguese Bank Note Affair

"Grunge Flag Of Portugal" by domdeen, courtesy of
“Grunge Flag Of Portugal” by domdeen, courtesy of

In the aftermath of scandals involving Enron, Bernie Madoff and Countrywide Financial, the current period might seem to be uniquely plagued by financial wrong doing. But in sheer scale, it would be difficult to exceed the audacity of Artur Virgilio Alves dos Reis (1898-1955). After dropping out of an engineering program, he traveled to Angola, and used a fake diploma from Oxford to find work. After returning to Portugal, he was soon imprisoned for check fraud, which gave him the time to plan a larger crime. After his release from prison, his background did not stop him from engineering a financial fraud that was so ambitious that it contributed to the collapse of the Portuguese Republic in 1926, which led to the fascist regime of Salazar. In an age in which people doubt if the financial system is adequately regulated, Alves dos Reis perhaps represents a worse-case example. …