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Bundesbank workers hurt by strange vapour

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Bundesbank workers hurt by strange vapour
Photo: DPA
12:26 CEST+02:00
Several employees from a regional branch of Germany's central bank were injured last week by mysterious vapours emanating from redeemed bank notes, according to a letter obtained by The Local on Wednesday.

The May 18 correspondence from the Bundesbank's office in Mainz said a shipment of money from an Australian-Israeli businessman emitted “vapour” that caused serious health concerns.

“After beginning the processing of the Euro notes the majority of the staff members claimed about medical conditions and the whole group was forced to go to hospital immediately,” the Bundesbank told Ronnie Shahar, who has a long-running dispute with the central bank over bulk redemption of old German coins and notes.

“Until it has been ensured that the processing of your notes (DM as well as Euro) will not pose any health risks to our employees, your shipments cannot be handled,” the Bundesbank missive signed by a Ms. Hüsch and Mr. Göltzer continued.

Contacted by The Local on Wednesday, the Bundesbank confirmed 12 people had been sent to the hospital on May 14 after complaining they did not feel well.

“Six people had more serious symptoms, but all 12 in the group were sent to the hospital as a precaution,” Bundesbank spokeswoman Susanne Mehlhorn told The Local. “The cause is still being investigated but fortunately everyone is healthy again.”

Rolf Vesenmaier, from the analysis firm TÜV Rheinland, said they had been instructed to examine Shahar's shipment as noted in the letter.

“That's correct. We have been called upon by the Bundesbank to look into the contamination of notes and coins,” said Vesenmaier. “It does seem strange, but there must have been some kind of solvent.”

Shahar, who runs a business redeeming old money mostly from Asia, has been fighting to have the Bundesbank accept his coin shipments after another strange incident last October, when the bank said eight people at the Hamburg branch were injured by noxious fumes supposedly trapped in bags of coins.

While the Bundesbank told The Local it is only blocking Shahar's shipments out of concern for the health of its employees, he alleges the central bank is purposely trying to stonewall and shut down his business because it doesn't want to process such a high volume of coins and notes.

“By law the Bundesbank is required to accept all currency it issues,” Shahar told The Local. “Every time I overcome their objections they come up with new ones. It's a never ending saga.”

Shahar contends it's virtually impossible that any gas or vapours could build up in his money shipments due to the manner in which they are packed. However, the Bundesbank said it is still accepting large amounts of notes and coins from other parties and that it would have to wait out the results of already extensive testing.

“This is certainly a particular case. There's no way to know how long it might take,” Mehlhorn said.

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