Swiss mystified over toilets flush with cash

GENEVA • If someone told you they had flushed more than a hundred thousand dollars down the toilet, chances are they would be referring figuratively to a bad investment or an outrageous extravagance.

But in Switzerland, prosecutors are investigating why two people tried to cram about €100,000 (S$161,500) in €500 notes down toilets in three Geneva restaurants and an office of banking giant UBS.

The notes "had probably been cut with scissors", Geneva prosecution spokesman Vincent Derouand said, confirming the May incident, first reported by the Tribune de Geneve newspaper.

Mr Derouand said the investigation would first focus on whether the cash was connected to any illegal activity, because destroying - or attempting to flush - bank- notes is not a crime in Switzerland.

Police were alerted after the restaurants complained that their toilets had been clogged, the spokesman said.

Thousands of francs have since been spent on plumbing repairs to unclog surrounding pipes, according to the BBC.

Later, "a lawyer representing the people who flushed the notes came by and compensated them" for the cost of plumbing repairs, Mr Derouand said.

The UBS branch involved is located in central Geneva and hosts a wealth management office of Switzerland's largest bank, prosecutors in Geneva said.

The notes were discovered in toilets near the area where the bank has vaults, Mr Derouand said.

UBS has declined to comment.

Mr Derouand did not discuss the identity of the suspects, but the paper said they were two Spanish women who had placed the money in a safe deposit box several years ago.

"We are trying to find out where the notes came from and whether a crime has been committed," Mr Derouand told the BBC.

The high-denomination euro notes are due to be withdrawn next year after claims that they assist illegal activities.

London's Telegraph newspaper said some locals speculate that the money may have been destroyed out of fear of the tax authorities, before new legislation comes into force next year requiring Swiss banks to share more information with governments.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Swiss mystified over toilets flush with cash'. Print Edition | Subscribe