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By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
 

Currency crime is a serious issue for many nations around the world, including Canada, which reports that hundreds of thousands of $1,000 banknotes are still outstanding. Many are presumed to be circulating among criminals, who prefer high-value currencies because they are lighter to carry in bulk quantities than smaller-denomination bills. Largely for this reason, Canada’s $1,000 banknotes, dubbed “pinkies” for the light-reddish hues depicted in their reverse image of two cardinals on a snow-covered branch, were retired on May 12, 2000.

Still, nearly 16 years after production ceased for the $1,000 note, the Bank of Canada reports 794,626 banknotes of $1,000 denomination are still in circulation. That figure is down from the 2,827,702 that were circulating when the denomination was withdrawn, but nonetheless still a large number of bills that have not yet been deposited in Canadian banks.

“The Bank [of Canada] does not track who is in possession of banknotes – nor should it, as it’s not part of its mandate,” says Josianne Ménard, media relations consultant for the Bank of Canada. “All banknotes issued by the Bank of Canada [http://www.bankofcanada.ca/] since 1935 are still legal tender,” she adds.

That would also include Canada’s $1 and $2 banknotes, which were withdrawn in 1989 and 1996, respectively.

Of course, a certain number of $1,000 banknotes belong in the hands of currency collectors. Several $1,000 bills are listed on eBay during virtually any given day, and in most cases they are legitimately encapsulated by reputable currency certification firms and bought by people with spotless records and honest intentions.

But in a world where underground criminal ringleaders and terrorist groups are doing all they can to hide in an increasingly electronic society, high-value notes are an attractive tool. Many experts believe that Canada’s circulating $1,000 bills are being traded as IOUs and for the direct exchange of goods. For example, in the drug trade, million-dollar transactions are commonplace. It’s far less cumbersome to exchange a valise stuffed with $1,000 bills than a duffle bag brimming with $100s.

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The European Union has encouraged member nations to withdraw high-value notes equivalent to 500 euros and 1,000 euros. Switzerland, not an EU nation but economically integral to Western Europe, has opted to keep its 1,000-franc note even amid a massive currency overhaul within its borders. For the record, the United States stopped issuing $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 bills in 1934 when the nation left the gold standard and would likely never print such large denominations again due to money laundering and other criminal activity.

So what are our neighbors in the Great White North doing to combat such crimes?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), one of the world’s most well-known and respected law enforcement agencies, has been tackling currency crime head-on for years. It was the RCMP that recommended the Bank of Canada withdraw high-denomination notes to help combat organized crime. Additionally, the RCMP is part of a broad Canadian community responsible for identifying and taking action against money laundering, terrorist financing, and other crimes involving the nation’s currency.

“Economic integrity has been a strategic priority for the RCMP for over 10 years,” says Annie Delisle, RCMP media relations officer. “The focus has [been], and continues to be, the prevention, detection, and disruption of crimes that affect the Canadian economy, including money laundering.”

Delisle says that economic crime is evolving in terms of scope and complexity.

“In the face of globalization and technological progress, criminals are operating across multiple jurisdictions using sophisticated and continuously evolving methods to victimize Canadians.”

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The RCMP works with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which deploys agents across the country to track down and apprehend individuals involved with criminal financial transactions. “If the currency is deemed to be linked to criminality, it is seized by investigators. It is held as evidence until it is forfeited as a Proceeds of Crime, or until the court rules that it be returned to its owner,” Delisle said. Money that is forfeited by the courts is deposited into the Canadian government’s general revenue. The value of all missing notes is still nearly $800 million–-all money that remains outstanding on the Bank of Canada’s ledger.

What can the public do to stop these crimes? The RCMP asks individuals to report all suspicious monetary transactions. Law enforcement agencies need the following details:

  • Date, time, and location of the suspect activity
  • The amount of money exchanged in the transaction
  • Name, address, telephone number, description of the persons involved
  • Bank, credit card, or other personal information about the subject
  • The circumstances, events, and details that raised your suspicion
  • Type of suspicious activity, such as the exchange of a large volume of cash, type of currency exchanged, etc.

Those who report crimes and tips to the police can remain anonymous and may be eligible for cash rewards if the information leads to an arrest and/or prosecution. While the missing Canadian $1,000 bills is primarily a problem for Canada, Americans and others who travel to Canada should remember that money laundering and other underground cash transactions have global implications, possibly even ties to terrorism, and therefore people of all nationalities who suspect the incidence of currency crimes relating to Canadian money should report such activities to the proper Canadian authorities.
 


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2 COMMENTS

  1. The author’s statements about high-value US bills require some clarification.

    First, printing of $500 through $10,000 ended with the 1934 _series_ date rather than in the calendar year of 1934; some production occurred as late as 1945. Printing was then suspended because demand was low and the Treasury had sufficient bills stockpiled.

    Second, $100,000 bills were only printed in late 1934 and early 1935. They were part of a series of special non-circulating gold certificates produced to facilitate transfers within the Federal Reserve system. Reportedly 42,000 of that denomination were printed, along with larger numbers of other bills down to $10. After more modern funds-transfer methods became available almost all of these special certificates were destroyed. In particular one specimen was saved and is on display in the Smithsonian.

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