The 500 euro note has been an integral part of the expanding European drug trade due to a variety of reasons, the main one being the ability to conceal it. Drug barons can carry around more money and hide it more easily compared to the US dollar. “It is called the ‘Bin Laden’ – you know they’re out there, and you know what they look like, but no one ever sees them.” The drug barons carry out the money-laundering cycle by taking the euros to the bank, having a second courier withdraw the money, take it to the US, put it into a US bank to legitimize it, and then wire it to the final destination. At the final destinations there are multiple exchange houses where the money can be exchanged for local currency in smaller, inconspicuous amounts. This system places drug money into the US and European banks.
The US and Canada used to have a bill worth $1000, but once the government realized that this facilitated organized crime they took it out of circulation. The European Central Bank claims that it was only meeting the high denomination notes of other European countries.
Graham, Caroline, and Adam Luck. “How the 500 Euro Is Financing a Global Crime Wave of Cocaine Trafficking, the Black Market and Tax Evasion.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 30 Jan. 2010. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1246519/How-500-euro-financing-global-crime-wave-cocaine-trafficking-black-market-tax-evasion.html>.