I don’t know about you, but if I had 20,000 €500 bills, I wouldn’t be cutting them into tiny little strips and flushing them down the toilet.
But someone who’s most decidedly not me, and most decidedly not you, did just that in Switzerland, turning what used to be a metaphor for wasting one’s money, and turning it into an literal thing.
The €500 is something of the bad dude of currency. Since its such a high-denomination bill, it’s a natural for money laundering and other criminal activities. Carrying a wad of fivers takes up a lot less room – one fifth the size and weight, in fact – as carrying a bunch of one hundreds that add up to the same amount. In fact, it’s so commonly up to no good that some wise-guys have nicknamed it the “Bin Laden.” Because it’s used for so many nefarious purposes, the €500 is being taken out of circulation. (Despite our ups and downs, and despite what the bitcoiners have to say, the US dollar still does tend to be the currency of good, bad, and indifferent choice worldwide. It’s just that the highest denomination US bill in general circulation is the $100. And, bang for the cash and carry buck, the Benjamin has some problems competing with the Bin Laden. I’m sure that those who want to MAGA will want to take a look into this matter.)
Anyway, the money in question was found inside of clogged toilets, and in trash cans outside of unclogged toilets, in a Geneva branch bank – not surprisingly UBS – and in a couple of nearby restaurants.
The public prosecutor’s office in Geneva said that the money appeared to have been disposed of by two Spanish citizens, whom it declined to identify, and that unless there was evidence that the cash had been obtained illegally or was destined for criminal activity, no charges could be brought. “The fact that you put the money into toilets is weird, but not criminal,” said Vincent Derouand, a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office. (Source: NY Times)
“Weird, but not criminal” sure describes plenty of goings on. But just as there’s criminal (jay-walking) and then there’s criminal (murder in the first degree), there’s weird (my mother’s whistling “La Vie en Rose” under her breath, which you wouldn’t think was a heritable trait but which apparently is) and then there’s weird (as in flushing $120K worth of Euros down the toilet).
Finding wads of cash in toilets is not a common occurrence, however, and the story drew attention in the national news media.
Not to mention the international news media, which is where I saw it.
UBS, whose Rue de la Corraterie branch is a short walk away, on the edge of a quiet area known as the “Quartier des Banques,” or neighborhood of banks, declined to comment. The Geneva police said the investigation was focused on damage to the toilets of the restaurants where the money had been found. The prosecutor’s office said a lawyer for the two Spanish suspects had paid for damage to the restaurants’ plumbing, but added it could not provide further information because it was a private arrangement.
So, what does this sound like to you? Some guys who didn’t want to be caught holding the bag containing beaucoup d’ill gotten gain? Counterfeiters who got cold feet?
Fun to mull, and very Inspector Clouseau-esque, no?
In any case, I enjoyed this one because it reminded me of my late and much lamented father.
As part of his time-served as a charter member of the Greatest Generation, U.S. Navy Division, my father spent a couple of years during WWII stationed at Navy Pier in Chicago. He was a Chief Petty Officer, and his job was paperwork. Anyway, after the war ended, he and his boss, some 90-day-wonder lieutenant, were told that they would be discharged once all their paperwork was cleared up.
So they crated up all that they could and sent it off to St. Louis. As a kid, I thought that this was something of a metaphor for sending things off to nowhere – I had visions of a giant safe just showing up at the train depot, where it would remain unclaimed forever – but St. Louis was, as I later learned, the repository for military personnel records.
Anyway, after they got finished packing up and shipping off everything that they possibly could, my father and his boss decided to flush whatever was left down the toilet. Or so he told us. I doubt that he would have flushed anything important. I doubt that there’s some geezer veteran tottering around, insisting that he was stationed in Chicago during the war, even if they can find no record of his service. But, knowing my father, and knowing his tolerance for Mickey Mouse rules and regulations, and for bureaucracy, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he decided that some of the forms he needed to clear up were completely flushable.
No way, however, would Al have ever flushed a $5 bill down the head – as it was called in the U.S. Navy – let alone a €500.
But those Spaniards in Geneva? With all those €500’s to burn, errrrr, flush.
Wouldn’t it have been easier and safer to just burn them? (Thanks to my husband’s stint in the CIA, I actually know how to burn paper so that you don’t leave a trace.)
So many mysteries, so little time.