The eurozone is moving to stop printing 500-euro banknotes, the violet-coloured bills that authorities fear are favoured by criminals, with most of the 19 nations in the currency bloc to halt issuing them next month.
“As of 27 January 2019, 17 of the 19 national central banks in the euro area will no longer issue 500-euro banknotes,” the European Central Bank said on its website.
However, Austria and Germany will both continue printing the banknotes until April 26 “in order to ensure a smooth transition and for logistical reasons”, the ECB said.
The 500-euro notes in circulation remain legal tender and can be used to make payments.
The ECB announced in May 2016 that it would halt issuing new 500-euro notes, saying at the time that it expected to do so around the end of 2018, due to “concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities”.
The largest denomination banknote in the single currency area is one of the world’s most valuable bills, alongside the 1,000 Swiss franc ($1,017, 888 euros) note.
Because of its high value and portability, experts believe the 500-euro note had become prized by criminals for money laundering and even terrorist financing, earning the nickname “Bin Laden” in some circles.
According to ECB statistics, 500-euro bills account for just 2.4 percent of the total number of banknotes in circulation, but a little over 20 percent of the total value. At the end of November there were 521 million of the banknotes in circulation.
The 500-euro banknotes were actually last printed in 2014, with demand satisfied since from stocks.