Here’s Exhibit A for ECB’s Mersch on Those 500-Euro Notes

European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch has said he wants evidence that high-denomination euro banknotes facilitate crime. While...

European Central Bank Executive Board member Yves Mersch has said he wants evidence that high-denomination euro banknotes facilitate crime. While there’s been much coverage of the matter, Mersch would be “very happy if any substantiated evidence would be shipped to the ECB.”  

Step forward the Spanish police, who arrested two men at Madrid airport and seized 200,000 euros ($219,000), cash that they said was en route to China as part of a money laundering scheme. The haul, publicized in photos last week, was rolled up in cigarette packets and made up of 50-euro and 500-euro notes. 

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, has called the 500-euro denomination the “currency of choice” for criminal and terrorist networks, and he says there’s a case for removing them from circulation.

The news from Madrid may be food for thought for the ECB’s Executive Board, which meets Tuesday in Frankfurt to prepare the agenda for policy makers’ meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.  The central bank is reviewing the denomination already, and 64 percent of economists in Bloomberg’s monthly survey expect it will stop issuing the bill in the foreseeable future. 

Will the seizure in Madrid be enough for Mersch? Certainly, others have needed less convincing. Here’s ECB President Mario Draghi in testimony to European lawmakers in Brussels on Feb. 15.

“There is a pervasive and increasing conviction in world public opinion that high-denomination bank notes are used for criminal purposes.”

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To contact the authors of this story: Fergal O’Brien in London at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Maria Tadeo in Madrid at mtadeo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net.

By: Fergal O’Brien and Maria Tadeo

©2016 Bloomberg News

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