Wednesday, May 4, 2016

European Central Bank scraps 500-euro note By Simon Morgan

500-euro note. Photo Credit: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
Frankfurt (AFP) - The European Central Bank on Wednesday said it would stop producing and issuing 500-euro banknotes, amid fears that the violet-coloured bills were favoured by criminals for money laundering and even terrorist financing. The bank is to stop issuing the 500-euro bills ($580) around the end of 2018 although those currently in circulation will remain legal tender. Existing bills can also be exchanged at national central banks of eurozone nations for an unlimited period of time, added the ECB, announcing its decision to scrap the denomination after "taking into account concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities". The largest denomination banknote in the single currency area is one of the world's most valuable bills, alongside the 1,000 Swiss franc ($1,045, 910 euros) note. It is physically also the biggest than the five other euro banknotes and believed to be favoured by criminals for moving large sums of money around without the authorities' knowledge. "Such notes are the preferred payment mechanism of those pursuing illicit activities, given the anonymity and lack of transaction record they offer, and the relative ease with which they can be transported and moved," according to a recent Harvard University study. Because of its size and portability, the 500-euro note has become so prized in underground finance that it can trade at more than its face value, and has become known in some circles as a "Bin Laden", the study said. A million euros worth of 500-euro notes weigh just 2.2 kilograms (4.85 pounds) and pack easily into a laptop bag, while the same sum transported in 50-euro denomination comes up to 22 kilos and requires the usage of a large sports bag. According to ECB statistics, the 500-euro bills account for just three percent of the total number of banknotes in circulation, but 28 percent of the total value. Yahoo! AFP Photo