Purple, portable and prized

Cash is an odd thing: like the Cheshire Cat in Wonderland, it periodically disappears and then once again reappears.  In my next blog post I will talk about disappearing cash but this week I want to tell you about Switzerland, which is once again going against the grain and ploughing its own furrow (which is an extremely rare farming technique known only to elite Alpine agrarian workers).  Most of the rest of the world is getting rid of high-value banknotes, as we discussed here and here.  But not Switzerland.  They have one of the most valuable banknotes in regular circulation: the 1,000 Swiss franc note.  In the bureau de change at my local M&S, I’d have to hand over more than £780 to get just one of these.  That’s fifteen times the value of our largest note, the already-rare £50 (or the bull’s-eye to our Cockney friends).  So you think they might be a bit worried about this, particularly in the face of the European Central Bank getting rid of the €500 banknote at the end of last year thanks to concerns about money laundering and terrorist financing.  But no: on 13 March 2019 the Swiss National Bank proudly rolled the presses on a newly-designed 1000-franc note.  It’s lovely and purple and “focuses on Switzerland’s communicative flair” with an image of a handshake.  That’s a bit unfortunate, really, given how often bribery is symbolised by a handshake.

The Swiss are big on privacy, of course.  When someone there proposed launching a national railcard a bit like the Oyster system we once had in the UK, there was a national outcry because people feared having their travel habits tracked.  And they are big users of cash, perhaps for similar reasons.  In a survey on payment methods conducted throughout 2017 by the Swiss National Bank, they found that “cash is the most common method of payment for households in Switzerland [with] 70% [of payments] processed with cash”.  And although smaller payments are more often made with cash than larger ones, “35% of non-recurring payments that involve amounts of more than CHF 1,000 are settled with cash”.  When was the last time you made a cash payment of £780?  Me either.  Imagine cramming all of that into your wallet or purse – and that, of course, is precisely why large value banknotes are still so popular with criminals.

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4 Responses to Purple, portable and prized

  1. Robert James Long says:

    I hate to say it, but thought out my law enforcement career I had to come tot he conclusion the Swiss are a little bit, well naughty. Their conduct during the second world war (How is that for Laundering? And how is that “neutral”?), the fact they did not extend the franchise to women in most cantons until the 1970s or even later, and their continued wilful blindness for what their banking system is used for. All this is one of the reasons that any international organisation that headquarters there may not be totally on the up and up (FIFIA and IOC spring to mind).

    And now this rather unhelpful development. One does despair. If he wasn’t a fictional character I would assume Moriarty survived his little fall and started running Switzerland.

    • Now there’s a novel waiting to be written, Robert! I can forgive a country a lot when their chocolate is so marvellous, but I do sometimes wonder about their genuine level of commitment to AML…

  2. Pingback: Cash and coffee | I hate money laundering

  3. Denmark has just announced that it plans to ban the 500 euro note from January 2020: https://www.pymnts.com/news/international/2019/denmark-bans-note-money-laundering/

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