Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jun 2003
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Reuters Limited


BERLIN (Reuters) - Almost all euro banknotes circulating in Germany
contain traces of cocaine, scientists said on Wednesday, as notes
rolled up by users to snort the illegal drug contaminate the cash system.

"Nine out of 10 banknotes show clearly measurable amounts of cocaine,"
Fritz Soergel from the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical
Research in Nuremberg told Reuters on Wednesday. Some 600 euro notes
were examined in the study.

The study could not provide conclusive evidence on levels of cocaine
usage in Germany and the euro zone but Soergel said there was a clear
correlation between the findings and levels of recorded cocaine abuse
in European countries.

"Studies have shown that the amount of cocaine found on banknotes in
countries where there is less cocaine usage, such as France, Finland
and Greece, is much lower than in countries where it is more
widespread," he said.

Results from a separate study the institute carried out on euro notes
in Barcelona were particularly startling, he said.

"We were almost knocked flat by what we discovered there. The
concentrations of cocaine on Spanish euro notes were almost a hundred
times that of what we recorded in Germany," he said.

An investigation in London in 1999 showed more than 99 percent of
banknotes in circulation were tainted with the drug.

Tests by the European Union on national currencies
of countries now using the euro prior to its introduction in 2002,
showed the deutschemark had the third highest level of cocaine
contamination behind the Spanish peseta and the Irish pound.

The prevalence of cocaine traces on paper money is often attributed to
cash counting machines in banks, which mix contaminated notes with
uncorrupted ones.

Soergel said the concentrations found suggested other reasons than
cross-contamination which demanded further research. "The problem goes
much deeper," he said.

Neither the German government nor European Central Bank, who print the
notes, would comment on the findings, which made the front page of
several leading newspapers on Wednesday.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake