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Too Much Privacy: Finnish Police Want Big Euro Notes Taken Out of Circulation 314

jones_supa writes The Finnish Police are concerned that larger banknotes, namely the €200 and €500 banknotes, encourage criminal activity and should therefore be removed from Finnish cash circulation. Markku Ranta-aho, head of the Money Laundering Clearing House of Finland, says criminals prefer cash because it is harder for police to track. In contrast, a record of electronic money transfers remains in the banking system, which makes the police's job considerably easier. Ranta-aho also says citizens rarely use the larger banknotes anyway, with which The Bank of Finland's advisor Kari Takala agrees. However, The Bank of Finland is skeptical about the ability of a ban on €500 banknotes to eliminate underground labor and trade in Finland. Takala suggests criminals would just switch to smaller bills. More illegal transactions take place via bank transfers, he says.
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Too Much Privacy: Finnish Police Want Big Euro Notes Taken Out of Circulation

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  • if you ban cash (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you ban cash, the four bogeymen (need I mention them?) and the wobbly anarchist menace will create their own cash.

    Oops, it's been already done, not once but a dozen times.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:42AM (#48139957)

      "You got the stuff?"
      Yeah.
      "You got the money?"
      Yeah. My trunk is full of unmarked quarters.

      • You may laugh. But last week I got a serious request from an acquintance to verify whether 2000 Kg. of unsorted Euro coins were real or fake. Pretty weird. So I did some research.

        In 2012 in Germany, some folks managed to trade in 29 tonnes of coins at the Central Bank of Germany. Must have been quite a counting machine :) But they got 6 million euro in return (in notes) so I guess the trunk full of unmarked quarters was a pretty good deal. However, they weren't legit.

        In 2013 some entrepreneurs tried it agai

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Well - if the bills were taken out of circulation and only coins were left then we would see a lot less robberies. Only stupid crooks would carry around a 10kg bag of cash.

      Most transactions are already with plastics, so it's not that it's hard to do.

      The trick is to catch the big crooks.

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Further discussion on the topic: Planet Money Podcast - Should we kill the $100 bill? [npr.org]
    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @09:47AM (#48140573) Homepage

      You joke but the US took larger bills out of circulation a long time ago over nonsense like this.

      The irony of course is that inflation has devalued what's left to the point where it actually makes some sense to bring some of those larger bills back.

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @10:01AM (#48140663)

      Not a problem. We've switched our organized crime over to using mortgage and insurance backed securities.

    • by silfen ( 3720385 )

      Civil forfeiture has little to do with restrictions on the use of large bills, other than perhaps that both are rooted in a "get tough on crime" attitudes.

    • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @10:36AM (#48140969)

      Civil forfeiture has got to be the biggest truckload of bullshit I have heard in a while. So now the state can just take my money because of what they think I might do with it? How can we be expected to respect law enforcement when they pull crap like that?

      • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @12:01PM (#48141925)

        How can we be expected to respect law enforcement when they pull crap like that?

        Because they'll kill you if you don't.

        The problem with getting though with crime is that it means the police is expected to be though. And this is how though guys act. This is, always has been, and always will be, the price you pay for demanding "thoughness": you'll get fascism.

        Americans brought this on themselves.

  • To their defense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Meeni ( 1815694 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:44AM (#48139977)

    As a normal person I never had use of large bills like that. Even 100 is an annoyance as you have to get it accepted for change somewhere. So in essence nothing of value would be lost. Then the claim that it would be effective at curbing illegal business is not very strong either.

    • Re:To their defense (Score:4, Interesting)

      by r1348 ( 2567295 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:50AM (#48140031)

      It would do nothing to curb criminality, it's just another excuse to privatize the circulation of money. Want a cash-free economy? Fine, give me my free State debit card.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        That would do nothing to ensure anonymity, which is another huge advantage of cash.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @09:00AM (#48140123)

        It would do nothing to curb criminality

        The best way to curb criminality is to have fewer crimes. Most of the "crimes" involving the exchange of cash are transactions between consenting adults, for goods and services that should not be illegal in the first place. The solution to oppression and prohibition is not more oppression and prohibition.

        • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
          I... This isn't talking about people buying drugs or something. This is about counterfeiting money or laundering money or downright stealing money. They're all reprehensible activities, I hope you will agree.
        • Heck, it is worse than that. It is not just between consenting adults, it is for perfectly legal services.

          In the US, it is estimated that ý of all cash transactions are for illegal services. Of those illegal services, about ý are for grey market services. That is, legal services where the parties don't report the income to the tax man.

      • by necro81 ( 917438 )

        It would do nothing to curb criminality

        Some kinds of criminality would be harder. If you have to move, say, €10 million in cash, whether you do it in €500 bills or €50 bills makes a large difference. In the first case, you only have to move 20,000 pieces of "paper" (a stack about 2 m tall). If you are constrained to €50 bills, you have to move 10x as much cash. Now, instead of a single briefcase that can easily be carried onto a railcar, you need a few duffel bags.

        Not that this

        • Currency Density Euro vs Gold €500 Euro note (1.1g + 1440 mm^3) €454/g = 0.0022g/€ 2.88mm^3/€ = 0.347€/mm^3 Gold (€973.8/troy ounce) €31.27/g = 0.031g/€ 1.657mm^3/€ or 0.6€/mm^3 So in terms of currency density, the €500 euro note weighs 14x less than gold, but is 1.7x more voluminous.
    • Re:To their defense (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:50AM (#48140033)

      As a normal person I don't use Raspberry Pi boards or metal lathes, either. There's no reason anybody should be allowed to have those, either.

    • actually I need some of them tomorrow, because some delivery guys will put up my sleeping room and then directly cash the remaining money (and no, thats not even some funky semi-legal business, just the way its done here).

      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        actually I need some of them tomorrow, because some delivery guys will put up my sleeping room and then directly cash the remaining money (and no, thats not even some funky semi-legal business, just the way its done here).

        I'm not sure we're on the same page here...

    • Re:To their defense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pz ( 113803 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:55AM (#48140081) Journal

      In contrast, as a normal person, I've used EUR 100 and EUR 500 bills regularly to take care of, well, large transactions that need to be confirmed and delivered faster than a bank transfer would allow (and when the people involved rile at paying 3% for credit card fees, or aren't set up to take credit cards in the first place), like paying vendors, or hotel bills outside of big cities.

      • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @11:07AM (#48141313)

        In contrast, as a normal person, I've used EUR 100 and EUR 500 bills regularly to take care of, well, large transactions that need to be confirmed and delivered faster than a bank transfer would allow (and when the people involved rile at paying 3% for credit card fees, or aren't set up to take credit cards in the first place), like paying vendors, or hotel bills outside of big cities.

        This is another good point. Without cash, every transaction will have an added tax paid to the payment processor. Think your "no-fee" credit card is really free? You're paying for it one way or another in the form of higher prices. Visa, or whomever, has to wet its beak in every transaction. It's one more way the financial industry skims off the top of the economy. They would love to get rid of cash. Then every time anyone bought anything they'd get paid.

    • So using large notes makes you abnormal?
      It's not illegal to be abnormal?
      Because, that's where you're headed with your statement.

    • Re:To their defense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @09:07AM (#48140191) Homepage
      I use the 100 EUR bill all the time. My average weekend shopping tops 100 EUR easily (we are a family of four), and then paying with the 100 EUR bill and additional cash just makes sense. And yes, I prefer paying cash. Maybe you are the exception?
    • Getting even 2k in 50s would be annoying. Alko can usually give change on a 500 if you need to break it. (Alko = state booze monopoly for the non-Finns)

      I can't see how using hundreds would really inconvenience criminals either. A quick search says a million would weigh 2kg in 500s, meaning 10kg in 100s. Smuggling huge sums across national borders might become harder but otherwise, who cares.
    • Those big bills are wonderful for getting discounts from contractors. To do the same with twenties, you would have a huge stack. Maybe just annoying, but it certainly does invite wheelbarrow jokes.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        I am pretty sure this is what they are trying to stop. Of course those contractors paid all the taxes due but some are less honest than others.

        • There is no way they pay (all) their taxes. They save 20-30% using all cash, which is why they give me 10% back.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Large bills were a problem 40 years ago perhaps.

      In this century, I have never had problems using a large bill. They simply aren't as valuable as they used to be and people are no longer quite so impressed by them.

      It's not 1980 anymore. Inflation has taken it's toll.

      Sorry JR.

    • As a normal person I never had use of large bills like that. Even 100 is an annoyance as you have to get it accepted for change somewhere. So in essence nothing of value would be lost. Then the claim that it would be effective at curbing illegal business is not very strong either.

      I purchase my latest car with cash. It was $2400. The bank refused to give me $100 because of "the drug war". It would have been a lot more convenient to carry 24 $100 bills instead of 120 $20 bills. But that's o.k., because of the children.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by roman_mir ( 125474 )

      I normally have 4-6 500 Euro bills on me at any time and maybe 2 200 bills and a few hundreds and some change. It is much more convenient than having stacks of twenties or tens. I move from place to place, it's business related and I don't want to be in need of quick cash and have to run around searching for an ATM.

      The criminals will not have a problem with any of this, this will only inconvenience the rest of the people, just like everything that governments do.

    • by Corbets ( 169101 )

      As a normal person I never had use of large bills like that. Even 100 is an annoyance as you have to get it accepted for change somewhere. So in essence nothing of value would be lost. Then the claim that it would be effective at curbing illegal business is not very strong either.

      As a normal person in Switzerland, I regularly use 1000 CHF notes (about 800 Euro, give or take). Grocers accept them and ATMs give them out; not considered a big deal here.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I remember when the Euro was first rolled out. Finland did't bother minting 1c and 2c coins, 5c was the minimum. I think they just don't see the point in the big notes, not just that there only use is crime but probably Finns just don't use them at all. I would say they are the most progressive Europeans.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      The most progressive Europeans don't use the Euro in the first place. But maybe the Finns are the most progressive Euro-users.

    • by marsu_k ( 701360 )

      While I'm not sure getting rid of the big notes would solve anything, I thought not minting 1c and 2c coins was brilliant. Just a trip to another Euro nation makes you remember why as your walled is stuffed with them.

      (The system works thusly: prices can be whatever, but when you pay the total it is rounded to the nearest 5c - it might be just a bit more or just a bit less than the total of your purchases, but it'll even out in the long run. If you're picky about paying the exact amount, use your card.)

  • Great. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:46AM (#48139999)

    When you start banning things just to make the job of police easier, you know that your government has at least a few problems with freedom. If freedom means that police have a harder job, then so be it.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      They should just ban procreation. The problem will sort itself out in a century. No more crimes.
  • Warped logic. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:46AM (#48140003)

    In contrast, a record of electronic money transfers remains in the banking system, which makes the police's job considerably easier.

    Yes because our lives should be dedicated to making the police's job considerably easier. Welcome to the new fascist state, it's the same as the old one. It just doesn't have all the goose stepping and death camps.....yet.

  • USA 1969 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by musterion ( 305824 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @08:47AM (#48140009)

    And just why do think the Federal reserve retired anything abouve $100 on July 14, 1969?

    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      It sure wasn't because of a groundswell of public opinion demanding it.

      I would strongly favor bringing back the $ 1000 bill. It's not that you might use it every day (I don't use $ 100 bills every day), but there are occasions where it would be very useful.

      • by pr0nbot ( 313417 )

        What advantage can you think of that a $1000 bill has over 10 x $100 bills?

        I can dream up a few, like if I want to bribe my congressman maybe I don't need as many envelopes, or on those days where I need to shift $20,000,000 in cash it's a few pounds lighter so the shipping is cheaper.

        But none of these would make me "strongly favor" bringing it back.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "I don't need it; therefore nobody else does."

          People reserve unto themselves the right to purchase things anonymously. It's a check on government power, a kind of spying.

          How disturbed I am at the surity with which people view modern government as nearly perfected, and worthy of such spy powers, when nothing in all human history should give you confidence in that.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          In TV Land, this was a common way to pay the retainer for your criminal defense attorney.

          Perry Mason got $500 and $1000 bills all the time.

          In 2014, $1000 is actually a smallish amount of money. It's probably less than a single paycheck of anyone here.

        • by rossdee ( 243626 )

          And when any transaction (through a bank) over ten grand has to be reported (by the bank to the authorities) theres not much point in $1000 bills

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And with inflation, it's today as if they retired everything above the $10 note in 1969.

      • Not quite. $100 in 1969 is $648 today.

        http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cp... [bls.gov]

        • Re:USA 1969 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @09:44AM (#48140547) Homepage Journal

          Only if you believe BLS numbers. Their latest "basket" offsets the inflationary impact of wheat doubling and heating fuel and beef quadrupling by counting in the rapid fall in prices of flat-screen TV's.

          That's not how inflation was measured in 1969, but it's better for the politicians this way.

          • "That's not how inflation was measured in 1969"

            Merely because there were no flat-screen TV available then at any price, so if they were included in the 1969 basket of goods that would give infinite deflation.

            The basket of goods in not a recent invention. it is good for econometrics because it reflects how people actually spend their money. If it fails to support the political axe you wish to grind that does not make it bad science.

    • Euro was originally planned this way, and the only reason why these banknotes exist in first place is Germany so rich Germans would be able to continue [spiegel.de] to bring unreported income to Switzerland easily. Also helps the Christ Democrat Party with their illegal donations [wikipedia.org]

    • by sudon't ( 580652 )

      In 1969, $100 was real money - a good week's pay for working people. Today, $600 isn't that much dough.

  • Erm... I'm not sure a member country of a currency union can unilaterally withdraw/ban/remove one denomination in its territories; the entire concept is based on a, you know, union of currency between many different states.

    Ignoring that obstacle I still don't see how this would work - they could end their status as legal tender but beyond that? How can they stop to individuals that have agreed to use these notes doing business with them? Will they try and make bartering illegal next?

    (Writing this I'm cu

    • by pr0nbot ( 313417 )

      "How can they stop to individuals that have agreed to use these notes doing business with them?"

      That seems pretty unlikely - why would criminals want to set up their own currency (which is effectively what this means). Currencies operate entirely on trust, and there's no honour amongst thieves...

      I could imagine them using something that has intrinsic market value and is fungible, like gold or cocaine.

  • Look, if the police actually think that large notes are an indication of criminal activity, then they should KEEP them, just pass rules that let bankers and other people notify the police when someone uses them.

    It just like those illegal craigslist advertisements - the police should LOVE them because it makes it easier to identify a criminal.

    • Organised crime fears cause ban on 500 euro note sales
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/8678886.stm [bbc.co.uk]
      13 May 2010

      Exchange offices in the UK have stopped selling 500 euro banknotes because of their use by money launderers.

      The Serious Organised Crime Agency says 90% of the notes sold in the UK are in the hands of organised crime.

      I can't really find a better article, but as I recall, the investigation showed that a relatively small number of financial organizations were ordering huge volumes of 500 euro notes, which were then never showed up for circulation in England.

  • It's not like every criminal in movies demands their cash transactions in twenties because they don't raise any flags, like bigger bills would. Maybe in Finland it's perfectly normal to have a bunch of big bills in daily use.
  • They could also start using alternative currencies, but I'm assuming they haven't considered that as a risk.
  • Hey, the Finn cop's missed child trafficking! They were supposed to add, "Help prevent child trafficking" to their laundry list of bullshit reasons for doing something entirely meaningless to prevent something that they are already powerless to prevent.

  • Well, ok, why don't we just ban paper money?
    Give the government full access to your bank account...
    All transactions pass through the federal government...
    Crime should end overnight right?

     

  • I've heard that the people who are scared the most about the SnapChat "hack" aren't the sexters, but financial industry people who thought it would be a great way to do backroom deals outside the prying eyes of regulators. They use perfectly legal and innocuous transfers to move money, buy assets, etc. The real meaning is held elsewhere.

    You know what it's a lot like? How the drug trade uses code language, bank transfers, etc. In other words, these methods are effectively useless at making strategic victorie

    • Because it's so much simpler and safer to bust little Suzy taking a selfie for her boyfriend than going after actual criminals...

  • I wonder if the Finns can unilaterally decide that the 200/500 Euro notes are no longer legal tender in their country. Then again, maybe they don't have to. Many stores over here (.nl) already don't accept large denominations.

  • Screw you and your tyrant ways.

    Everyone should do everything with cash just to screw you and your fascist money tracking off...

    (This goes for all countries and cops)

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @10:30AM (#48140915) Homepage

    In the UK the biggest denomination in public operation is actually just GBP50. And even that - try giving it to a taxicab driver at 3am and see what he says - most small shops will refuse them precisely because they are the main target of fraud.

    I was once given lots of £50's by a relative. It was an absolute pain trying to use them for day-to-day expenses. Some of the large supermarkets will take them but they'll scan them and test them and all sorts before they'll accept them. And a lot of places just won't accept them (sure, you can cause a fuss - but who wants to argue everywhere they go to shop?).

    It was just easier to put them in the bank and draw out the equivalent in 20's while I was there.

    The one good thing about the modern age is electronic money. I can't remember the last time I had to carry cash (coin or note). And without electronic money can you imagine trying to do Internet shopping etc.

    Hell, last time I ordered a pizza, I did so online precisely because I couldn't be bothered to go withdraw some cash just to pay the guy.

    It does make money-laundering harder. It does make mistakes easier to make (but there are processes for that, and I've never had a bad experience cancelling a payment even when the company on the other end was entirely unco-operative). And, yes, it does put a lot of your life in the hands of the banks. But I can't really see a future for cash. And certainly not cash in those denominations.

    I don't have a tap-to-pay card, however. The problem needing to be solved is how do I pay for JUST a pack of mints with my card? That's tricky in terms of equipment, commission, hassle (entering codes, etc.) and security (I don't trust tap-to-pay yet).

    To be honest, last I hear most counterfeiting in the UK is actually on 1GBP coins. Because they are made of cheap metal, they tend to be easier to forge than expensive security features like holograms, etc. The only "solution" is to follow what happened with the 2GBP coin, and that's to make it bi-metallic - which is the next plan from the Bank of England.

    P.S. Slashdot really need to sort their systems out. Can't put in a proper bloody pound sign.

  • by Scot Seese ( 137975 ) on Tuesday October 14, 2014 @01:09PM (#48142557)

    Or, they could.. you know - require photo I.D. for large cash purchases, much like the U.S. post-911.

    Try going to Sears and paying $1500 for a new stove in 2002. Drivers license sir? We have to record your name and address.

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