Tuesday 20 February 2018

Sitting on a fortune: €233m in old punts down the back of our sofas

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

AROUND €233m worth of old punt bank notes have never been swapped for euros and may be stuffed down the back of sofas, buried or have been mistakenly destroyed, it has emerged.

And most of the money is in the form of notes, with a staggering 29 million old punt notes yet to be turned into euros. The Central Bank has confirmed that £184m in punts, or €233m, is still outstanding.

Punts have not been legal tender in this country for 11 years now.

The Irish pound was superseded by the euro on January 1, 1999, but the new euro currency did not begin circulation until the beginning of 2002.

The Central Bank in Dublin operates a free service exchanging the old notes for new euros. Some €10,000 worth of punts are swapped for euros in the bank every day.

"The average number of bank notes taken out out of circulation each working day in 2012 was 467, equating to approximately £7,775 punts," a spokeswoman for the Central Bank said.

Much of the missing punts may have accidentally been destroyed or lost, but it is also thought that there is still a lot of the old currency hoarded in jars and sock drawers around the country.

It is thought that consumers discover old punt notes on a regular basis – money that had been forgotten about.

But Labour TD Kevin Humphreys has expressed fears that some of the punts being exchanged for euros may be money being laundered. He has called on the Central Bank to set a cut-off date after which punts would no longer be exchangeable for euros.

He said some of the sums being exchanged were so large it raised questions about where the money came from.

"The figures provided to me by the Minister for Finance on the daily exchanges of punts to euro at the Central Bank indicate that on 62 days in 2011 cash sums of over €15,000 were converted from old notes and coins. A total of €2.7m was exchanged in 2011."

Mr Humphreys said that on one day alone, €160,242.21 was exchanged.

"This is not the kind of money a person might find down the back of a couch," he added.

Two days before the €160,242 was exchanged, a total of just €266.14 was changed.

Irish Independent

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