A bum note

It’s on its way out, that banknote of choice for the money laundering fraternity: on 4 May 2016 the European Central Bank announced that it will stop issuing the €500 note at the end of 2018, “taking into account concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities”.  Of course you remember: I told you about it at the time.

To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in possession of a €500 note; my European spends are usually far more modest.  (My greatest indulgence is stocking up on Ciobar hot chocolate powder in Italian supermercati.  It’s like no hot choc you have ever tasted – once you’ve had it, there’s no going back.)  But it seems that although the note will remain officially legal tender for the foreseeable, it’s getting harder and harder to use in normal life.  An article in the travel bit of the Sunday Times four days ago – prime holiday season – warned holidaymakers not to ‘get stuck with a Bin Laden’, as they are notoriously difficult to offload in shops, restaurants and even hotels.  The clue may be in the nickname: the note has long been associated with money laundering and terrorist financing.  As the French then-finance minister Machel Sapin said when the ECB withdrawal was announced in 2016, the €500 note is “used more for hiding things than for buying them”.  The advice is to refuse to take one at all and to insist on smaller denomination notes.  If you do end up with one, the recommendation of the ECB, no less, is to take it to a national central bank in the Eurozone.  Banks here in the UK are not keen – HSBC and Barclays are refusing to touch them – and the few foreign exchange bureaux that will take them are charging a premium to do so.  My advice?  Blow the lot on Ciobar: you’ll get about 850 sachets of chocolatey loveliness for just one Bin Laden.

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9 Responses to A bum note

  1. mariecaffi says:

    As an Italian I fully agree with you on the Ciobar – you English just cannot do hot chocolate 😉

    Marie Caffi MICA
    Risk and Compliance Manager I FNB Channel Islands
    [Description: Description: FNB_logo-horiz]

    PO Box 602, La Plaiderie House, St Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 4NL, Channel Islands
    T: +44 (0)1481 748126 F: +44 (0)1481 700222

    FirstRand Bank Limited Guernsey Branch trading as FNB Channel Islands is regulated by The Guernsey Financial Services Commission and licensed under The Banking Supervision (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 1994.

    FirstRand Bank Limited is a public limited company registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission in South Africa (Registration number 1929/001225/06), and is authorised and regulated by the South African Reserve Bank. Head office: 4 Merchant Place, Corner Fredman Drive and Rivonia Road, Sandton, 2196, South Africa.

  2. CDWOS says:

    Pricey chocolate, must be good (your ringing endorsement speaks volumes t!!) Not surprising really these notes have been tagged by the law Enforcement Agencies from the outset as perfect for illegal money transfers (physical if I remember correctly) money laundering, and everything else illicit involving cash. It has taken a very long time to reach a decision (EU of course possibly the most surprising aspect is that they have made a decision – not that I am cynical or biased you understand !!)

    • Only the best for me, CDWOS! And yes, any high value note is perfect for cash smuggling – reduce the volume/weight and you’re laughing. Perhaps we should insist that anyone with a dodgy CDD check is issued only with pound coins when withdrawing/converting any money!

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    I can’t think that I’ve ever seen a denomination above 50 EUR/GBP/USD. Or very rarely, even back in the good old ‘draw from offshore bank, post to various addresses in brown envelopes’ halcyon Jersey days. Never mind, cash itself is a concept that will disappear soon enough.

    • I’ve seen a few hundreds in the US, but not in the UK or EU. We’re obviously not moving in moneyed circles, Roy!

      • CDWOS says:

        The halcyon days when cash was king and your overseas visiting clients wore overcoats in the Summer and arrived looked far more portly than they left!!! Ah yes I remember them well. Have seen and handled €100 and €200 notes – does that mean that I move in the right circles??!! And I never realised!

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