European Central Bank (ECB) 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 â€œvery happy if any substantiated evidence would be shipped to the ECB.â€
Step forward the Spanish police, who arrested two men at Madrid airport and seized 200,000 euros ($219,000) cash. They were en route to China as part of a money laundering scheme.
The haul, publicised in photos last week, was rolled up in cigarette packets and made up of 50-euro and 500-euro denomination notes.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, has called the 500-euro denomination the â€œcurrency of choiceâ€ for criminal and terrorist networks, and he says thereâ€™s a case for removing them from circulation.
The news from Madrid may be food for thought for the ECB’s Executive Board, which met on 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.
â€œThere is a pervasive and increasing conviction in world public opinion that high-denomination bank notes are used for criminal purposes.â€