Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For A Suitcase Full Of Euros

Since Spain changed over from the Peseta to the Euro I have only once seen a 500 Euro note; and that was presented to me by my bank. Known in Spain as Bin Ladens, because everyone knows they are out there but nobody ever sees them, these banknotes have become a firm favourite for those who deal in the submerged economy. The reason is obvious, with such high value in a single note it’s possible to transport huge sums of cash in a relatively small container. It was recently announced that almost 30% of all the 500 Euro notes issued in the Euro zone are now circulating in Spain. Any major fraud or corruption scandal that emerges at the moment seems to feature big wads of these notes; the stamp investment fraud (see link here) resulted in a stash of 10 million Euros being discovered behind a freshly plastered wall. Meanwhile in Marbella, corruption capital of Spain, the decision to finally act (after years of tolerance) against those running the local authority as a means of personal enrichment has included the discovery of large sums of cash in the homes of the accused. The Spanish Mediterranean coast, where it seems money can be easily laundered through construction, is probably where a high proportion of these notes are circulating. The estimate for the total amount of money circulating in these notes is 50,000 million Euros and accounts for over 60% of the money in circulation in the country. If I’ve seen one, that only leaves another 100,999,999 unaccounted for.

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