U.K. making 500-euro note scarce

A cashier counts out 500 Euro notes in London.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: The largest denomination bill printed here in the United States is $100. You'd need six of those, plus a $20, a $10, and some change to equal how much a 500-euro note is worth. That's the biggest bill printed in Europe. And even though the euro's not the official currency of the U.K., some stores there still accept it. Now, because of organized crime, it's going to be even harder to find. For Marketplace, the BBC's Rebecca Singer follows the money.


Rebecca Singer: Criminals love big bills. How else are they going to cram $1 million into a briefcase?

Jeffrey Robinson writes about global money laundering:

Jeffrey Robinson: If I were a drug trafficker and I had a magic wand, I would wish for a 500 euro note. Because what that does is immediately reduce the bulk of dirty money; it makes it easier to transport."

Not only is the 500-euro bill easier to carry, it travels further because it's accepted across Europe. And even though the U.K. uses the British pound, police in London have been finding vast quantities of the 500-euro note on drugs raids. Ian Cruxton's from the Serious Organized Crime Agency. He says taking the note out of circulation will make life more difficult for the criminal gangs.

Ian Cruxton: And actually we suspect that this will open up a significant air gap and cause real problems for criminals, and actually starve them of the supply of one of their vital commodities.

Don't worry if you're a tourist: You can still bring a 500-euro note into the U.K. without raising too many suspicions. You just won't be able to buy one there.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.

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