€100,000 Down The Toilet
Why would someone flush €100,000 down the toilet?
It sounds crazy, but that's exactly what happened
during the summer of 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.
A branch of the UBS Group AG bank on the Rue de la Corraterie
in central Geneva had a plumbing problem.
A toilet near the bank vault containing hundreds of safe deposit boxes
was stopped up.
Possibly multiple toilets, authorities aren't releasing all the details.
The plumbers found that the waste pipe was clogged with €500 notes,
many of which had been cut up with scissors.
It isn't a crime in Switzerland to destroy banknotes,
but it certainly is strange behavior.
Henri Della Casa, a spokesman for the Geneva prosecutor's office,
said "There must be something behind this story",
explaining why his office had opened an investigation.
A few days later, three restaurants in the nearby Place du Molard,
a square in the city's historic center,
found that their toilets were clogged.
Plumbers found the same problem — cut-up €500 notes
flushed down the toilets.
Other cut-up bank notes were discovered in a trash can near the clogged toilet
at the Café du Centre, a seafood restaurant.
The nearby Pizzeria du Molard was another restaurant with Euro-clogged toilets.
The toilets were all thoroughly stopped up, they had to be removed
and broken apart to clear the waste pipe and remove the cut-up bank notes.
The total recovered from the four locations added up about €100,000.
Who Did It?
The prosecutor's office said that the currency appears to have been
cut up and flushed by two Spanish citizens that it refused to identify.
Two women were identified after the prosecutors reviewed surveillance video.
They had stored the notes in one of the safe deposit boxes for several years.
Authorities are investigating a man spotted on the video going into
the bathroom with some sort of large bundles in his pockets.
The Swiss daily Tribune de Genève reported that
multiple toilets were clogged in the men's room at one of the restaurants.
Cleaning staff found several €500 notes floating on the surface
of the water in the bowls.
The cost of the plumbing repairs ran into the thousands of Swiss Francs.
The prosecutor's office stepped in and seized all
the damaged currency as evidence.
So, the restaurants couldn't simply
let the plumbers keep what they found.
A lawyer for the two Spanish suspects paid for the repairs
at the bank and the three restaurants.
Vincent Derouand, another spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said
"The fact that you put the money into toilets is weird, but not criminal.
The only thing you have to check is if it's of legal provenance or not."
Unless the prosecutor's office finds evidence that the currency was
obtain illegally or was destined for criminal use, they will bring
The €500 note is the highest-value Euro banknote,
and physically the largest of the Euro series at 160×82 mm.
It's one of the highest-value circulating banknotes in the world.
While the €500 note has been circulating since the introduction of
Euro currency in 2002, in May 2016 the European Central Bank announced that
it would phase out that denomination by the end of 2018.
Benoît Cœuré, a high-ranking bank official, said
"Authorities increasingly suspect that they are being used for illegal
purposes, an argument that we can no longer ignore."
The large value is helpful in money laundering, drug trafficking,
and tax evasion.
Europol's 2015 report said that high-denomination cash was the
financial instrument of choice for terrorist organizations.
However, according to the
the €500 note will remain legal tender and will always retain its value.
No need to cut them up and flush them away!
In January 2017 the European Central Bank reported that 534,089,193
€500 notes were in circulation, for a total of
Meanwhile, in the U.K., the Serious and Organised Crime Agency along with
the Treasury and the Home Office decided in 2010 to remove the €500
note from circulation in Britain.
They had determined that 90% of the notes were used for criminal purposes.
In Columbia in 2006, financial regulators declared that
while they knew that €225,000 in €500 notes were
legally imported, around €675,000,000 was exported.
People making significant cocaine purchases don't declare
all their currency when they cross borders.
The U.S. issued
notes up to US$ 100,000
in the 1920s and 1930s.
Some of these were used only for transactions between government agencies,
others were used mainly for inter-bank transfers.
The last notes larger than US$ 500 were printed in 1945.
In 1969 the Federal Reserve began taking high-denomination currency
out of circulation, because it seemed that organized crime was
the only non-government user.
When banks received notes of US$ 500 and greater, the Federal Reserve
exchanged them for US$ 100 notes and then destroyed them.
In May 2009 the Federal Reserve reported that only 165,372 US$ 1,000 notes,
342 US$ 5,000 notes, and 336 US$ 10,000 notes were known to still exist.
The Swiss Mystery Lingers
The reason for the Swiss flushing remains mysterious.
The European Central Bank's announcement clearly states that €500
notes will remain legal tender.
Were the two Spanish women and any accomplices trying to get rid of
money involved in criminal activity?
And if so, why do it in such a clumsy manner?
After plugging the first toilet at the bank, why keep trying the same
failed technique at nearby restaurants?
Switzerland's Golden Sewage
And, how much more currency did they successfully flush away,
and where did it end up?
This just adds to the potential value of Swiss sewage given its high levels of
The story about the Swiss toilets didn't come out until mid-September,
Tribune de Genève
published a story.
Then it was reported by several news organizations including:
The New York Times
National Public Radio
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