Commercial banks are being ordered to note the personal data and transaction history of clients who exchange 500-euro notes, along with cross-checking the details recorded with other transactions by those customers, according to a circular issued by the Bank of Greece.
The aim of the measure – on top of a commission charged by banks on the exchange of 500-euro banknotes with smaller ones – is to prevent money laundering, which experts believe to be behind demands by certain bank clients to exchange bills of high denomination.
After a statement by the governor of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, regarding a possible withdrawal of 500-euro bills, many Greeks rushed to have their banknotes swapped with 20- and 50-euro bills, as some 20 billion euros in cash is believed to be kept in Greeks’ homes. This amounts to a vital amount for the Greek economy, especially if some of it is the product of illegal activities.
Greece ranks among the European Union countries with the highest circulation of paper money, amounting to 25 percent of the gross domestic product, while the average in the EU is below 10 percent.