Pile of EuroCoin Trouble for Chinese Tourists

Next time you trade in your old car without checking it, spare a thought for two innocent Chinese tourists denounced for carrying a large hoard of one euro coins and detained by police in Paris.

Not too many please - "legal" lline-up of Eurocents (Credit Wikipedia)

Not too many please – “legal” lline-up of Eurocents (Credit Wikipedia)

The two tourists were arrested when a hotel manager in Bagnolet (Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb), alerted police after the men paid their bill for an overnight stopover, in 70 one-euro coins.

According to a report in L’Express the two unfortunates were detained – but subsequently released without charge — because police found they were carrying 3,700 one-euro coins on them, raising suspicions that they might be counterfeit currency.

The innocent tourists explained that they worked for a recycling company in China and the coins were salvaged from behind the seats or elsewhere in scrapped vehicles shipped out of Europe for recycling in China.

“Before crushing the cars, they (the Chinese workers) strip and sort all the metals in the vehicles and sometimes they find coins,” L’Express reported, citing a police source.

Clearly the two tourists found themselves unwitting victims of a potentially holiday-wrecking spot of cultural misunderstanding. To them what was nothing more than an innocent collection of coins — the fruit of their labours indeed– to be used on a trip to Paris, clashed with the tight security and money laundering concerns in the EU. European authorities keep a sharp eye out for cash in unusual amounts in an economy where money is now largely digital – and cash has perversely, come to be seen as dodgy.

You'll be ok with this  number - a euro-coin starter pack (Credit Wikipedia)

You’ll be ok with this number – a euro-coin starter pack (Credit Wikipedia)

Furthermore French police would have been on the alert because in 2011, German counterparts had dismantled a network of counterfeiters with links to China, where according to L’Express, scrap metal from the German mint sent for recycling had been recast and reminted into euro coins. The network was uncovered when air hostesses tipped off Frankfurt airport customs to the abnormally heavy bags being carried by some of their disembarking passengers!

Moral of the story? Help save future Chinese tourists from inadvertently having their collars felt, check your soon-to-be-scrapped vehicle for lost coins before you trade it in!

  • Chinese tourists are big business in France. The number of Chinese visitors to France in 2013 jumped by more than 23% year on year recent  figures show

Story: Ken Pottinger

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