Egypt's banknotes with scribbling: tradable or not?



Tue, 12 Mar 2019 - 08:43 GMT


Tue, 12 Mar 2019 - 08:43 GMT

Egyptian banknotes with scribbles - Photo taken by Hassan Mohamed/Egypt Today

Egyptian banknotes with scribbles - Photo taken by Hassan Mohamed/Egypt Today

CAIRO - 12 March 2019: A week ago, an official at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) stated that banknotes defaced with writings or scribbles are invalid as legal tender, prompting debates online, with a number of experts predicting the decision to be impractical to implement.

One day later, the CBE officially denied any new policy, but another high-profile official at the Central Bank on condition of anonymity warned people against using banknotes with any added markings.

Despite the ambiguity regarding official CBE policy changes, in practice other governmental institutions have refused to accept banknotes with any messages written on them; opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood have been accused of defacing currency with anti-government slogans.

A commuter at a southern Cairo Metro station told Egypt Today after trying to pay for a ticket with a 5-pound note bearing scribbles insulting the president, the money was checked by a police officer, who advised that such currency was invalid, and forbidden inside governmental institutions.

“I told him [the police officer] that I took this note from a microbus driver; and after he reviewed all the money I had with me, he let me go advising me to be sure that the bills I carry not have any marks,” the citizen told Egypt Today.

‘Ill-considered decision’

“The CBE’s decision is intimidating and ill-considered,” lawyer Yasser al-Sayed Ahmed told Egypt Today on Monday. He added that the decision is inapplicable as the bank has not collected all defaced currency money since the issuance of the decision on March 5, saying that the prosecution has no right to direct any accusations against those who possess such money.

“Possession of money with [insulting] scribbles or phrases does not mean the possessor belongs to an outlawed group or anti-government organization,” he continued.

Despite Ahmed’s comments on prosecution’s authority, police personnel have the right to interrogate and arrest anyone could be “suspect,” per the judicial police powers.

Member of Board of Directors at Suez Canal Bank Mohamed Abdel-Aal told al-Hayat al-Youm talk show on Al-Hayat T.V. channel that CBE had issued directions several times to national banks to stop circulating notes with scribbles, noting that the CBE will collect defaced money and dispose of it.

However, legal expert Mohamed Shafiq told state-owned newspaper al-Ahram that the collecting and cutting unwanted notes could be very costly.

Money with scribbles from ATMs!

Immediately following the CBE's March 5 announcement, social media users made fun of it, noting that ATMs often disperse the now-forbidden notes.


One Twitter user said that he withdrew money with scribbling from an ATM and went to the bank to change them, where bank officials tried to convince him the notes were valid.

To get rid of scribbled money, other users have suggested that anyone holding defaced money could deposit the bills in an ATM, then withdraw the same amount of money.




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