Mafia expert: Honest people will not miss 500-euro banknotes By Alvise Armellini, DPA

INTERVIEW

Mafia expert: Honest people will not miss 500-euro banknotes

By Alvise Armellini, dpa Rome (dpa)

Italian Federico Varese is a Professor of Criminology at Oxford University and the author of several books on Mafia organizations in Europe and beyond. He talks to dpa about the looming withdrawal of 500-euro banknotes from circulation.

dpa: The European Central Bank is expected to announce the move imminently. What do you think about it?

Varese: It seems like a good decision that will definitely inconvenience major organized crime groups but also small-scale tax cheats. Some economists say that high denomination banknotes are needed for people who don't trust banks and want to hoard cash at home, but evidence suggests their main use is for undeclared, if not illegal activities.

dpa: Will there be any drawbacks?

Varese: The economy will not suffer. If we want to spend money, we will still be able to do it with lower denomination notes. Given that there are no banknotes of similar value in the United States and Canada, I do not buy into the theory that they are needed for the functioning of the economy.

dpa: What will be the practical effects?

Varese: High denomination banknotes are more common in countries with a strong informal economy, such as Italy, Greece or Bulgaria. The decision will have the biggest effect on these countries. We should not delude ourselves that such measures will eradicate the Mafia or tax evasion, but they will make life a little bit harder for criminals. If anything, they will have to buy slightly bigger suitcases to transport their cash. I don't think that anyone engaging in legitimate and traceable trades will miss 500 bills.

dpa: Will criminals find more devious ways to transfer cash?

Varese: Perhaps, but we should not overstate the technological prowess of these organized crime groups. Some may switch to virtual money like Bitcoin, but the majority are not so sophisticated.

 

"Un'analisi profonda"

Roberto Saviano, Repubblica

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