Government Takes 18 Months To Determine Argentine Cash Was Only Literally Dirty


U.S. federal agents who seized more than $4 million in U.S. banknotes shipped from Alfredo Piano’s Buenos Aires bank uncovered what they claimed was a cache of dirty money...Piano’s banknotes became the subject of recent scrutiny in federal court in Washington, where the bills were named defendants in a lawsuit called U.S. v. $4,245,800 in Mutilated United States Currency. In it, the U.S. alleged that the tattered cash that Piano’s Banco Piano SA had tried to exchange at face value was likely the proceeds of criminal activity. Piano argued that his bank’s role is to help Argentines get new greenbacks when their old ones get burned, ripped or, in some cases, sent through the washing machine. Hashing out whether the bills fell under the government’s figurative, criminal definitions of dirty and laundered, or merely Piano’s literal ones, took an 18-month legal proceeding and insights from Argentine money-hoarders, the Secret Service and an arm of the U.S. government called the Mutilated Currency Division...Mounting the defense of his clients’ money, Piano argued that Argentines are world-class stashers of cash dollars, and that misfortune will naturally befall some of the paper money that people hoard in mattresses, walls and holes in the ground...On November 25, a year and a half after the bills were seized, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan approved a settlement reached between the two sides. It called for returning about $4 million to the bank. [Bloomberg]