Paper Money

Why did someone flush 500-euro notes down toilets?

In Geneva, two individuals have been identified as having flushed tens of thousands of euros in cut-up €500 notes like these. The questions is — why?

Images courtesy of European Central Bank.

The times have been good lately for some lucky plumbers in Geneva, Switzerland. According to multiple media reports, tens of thousands of euros in cut-up €500 notes were found flushed down the toilets and clogging the pipes near the vault area of a UBS bank branch in downtown Geneva. Then, several days later, more were discovered in a few area restaurants. Thousands of francs were required to pay for undoing the expensive mess.

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The incidents are being investigated by authorities, and the Geneva Tribune says that a local lawyer has been questioned. The Geneva prosecutor’s office told the BBC that it was trying to determine where the notes came from and whether there was a crime involved, even though destroying bank notes is not illegal in Switzerland. Business Insider said on Sept. 19 that two Spain nationals were responsible and that their lawyer indicated that the pair had compensated the restaurants for the damage. He did not specify the method of payment.

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The €500 note was in the news in 2016 when the European Central Bank said that, although the note would remain legal tender, it would stop printing them and start taking them out of circulation in 2018. This is part of a campaign to make illegal transactions such as money laundering more difficult. The Swiss 1,000-franc note, valued at about $1,030, remains popular and the number in circulation is on the increase.

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