Last February, German newspapers, radio and television reported a sensational claim by the federal finance ministry — that up to €100 billion was being laundered each year in Germany.
It was a stunning number for a country that prides itself on law and order. But Germans also love to use cash more than most, with just around 20 percent of all transactions done by credit card. The money-laundering figure left many crying for action, boosting calls for everything from ending the €500 note to abolishing cash altogether.
The source of the vocal complaints was a study led by criminal law professor Kai Bussmann of Halle-Wittenberg University. The ministry had commissioned it and used the results to buttress its call for a uniform, European-wide maximum limit for cash payments, among other things.
But what if the study that sparked the furore was flawed?
Handelsblatt research has found that the professor’s team didn’t investigate the volume of actual laundered money – just suspicions of it. There’s a big difference.