Then Reis forged the signatures of Bank of Portugal officials (he traced them from the currency in his pocket). He appended two new Portuguese banknotes—one for 1000 escudos and another for 500 escudos.
Reis’ key associates, Dutch trader Karel Marang, German trader Adolph Hennies, and José Bandeira (brother of António Bandeira, the Portuguese Ambassador to the Netherlands) later claimed to have believed the project was legitimate throughout.
Karel Marang approached Joh. Enschedé, an old and respected Dutch printing firm for the job. Reviewing the attached sample notes, they said they were the work of Waterlow and Sons of London. Waterlow was a major worldwide printer of currency, postage stamps, stocks and bond certificates. It had around 7,000 employees.
On 4 December 1924, Karel Marang approached Sir William Waterlow with a letter of introduction from the Joh. Enschedé company. The two notes Alves Reis had appended to the contract were of the so-called “poet” series; they bore the faces of Luis de Camoes, Portugal’s great epic poet of the 16th century; and Joao de Deus Ramos, a 19th century romantic poet.
When Sir William saw the two banknotes he knew they had been made for the Bank of Portugal by his great London rival, Bradbury Wilkinson. Ordinarily he might have cut short the discussion with the foreigner by advising him to visit the nearby offices of the rival banknote printer. But why throw any more business their way? The two poet notes, he told Marang, had been done by “an American banknote firm.” Technically, he was correct: Bradbury was a subsidiary of the American Bank Note Company.
“A pity,” Sir William went on, “that you didn’t bring us a note that we have made for the Bank of Portugal—the Vasco da Gama 500 escudos note.” He had his secretary bring in a specimen book of banknotes which contained the 500 escudos note.
“This note would do very well,” said Marang.
The visitor stressed the importance of secrecy in the whole affair, particularly since the Banco Ultramarino normally was the only agency that could issue banknotes for the Portuguese colonies. Complicating matters, he went on, was the fact that two brothers, the Ulrichs, were serving as directors of the Bank of Portugal and the Ultramarino. For this reason only the governor of the Bank of Portugal and the deputy governor knew of this deal.