Complaints of the mysteriously dissolving euro notes began accumulating in late October. An initial investigation revealed that "the destroyed bank notes came in contact with sulfuric acid, which led to the observed disintegration," the mass-circulation Bild newspaper reported on November 2. It is believed that the bills were somehow coated with a sulfur salt, which would have formed a potent acid in combination with perspiration from a person's hands, causing the bills to decompose.
But where did the sulfuric acid come from? In a recent twist, chemists are now speculating that it may have come from an impure batch of the synthetic drug crystal methamphetamine, also known as "crystal meth."
The timing would certainly fit. Whereas crystal meth has become a mainstay on the drug menu in the US, it has only recently become popular in Europe. Meaning bank notes, through which the powder is generally snorted, have been largely free from encountering the stuff.
And free from some of the impurities with which crystal meth is often cut. Authorities think that a batch of the stuff may have been stretched with sulfur salt, traces of which then found their way onto euro bills.. "This is a new lead for us," Rainer Wenzel at the criminal lab in Rhineland Palatinate said last week.
Wenzel and his colleagues have since backed away from the explanation. A Monday press release said that "even if the bills were contaminated by sulfates, their corrosion would still be unlikely."
Berlin, though, is hooked. Criminal investigators in the German capital are still chasing the sulfuric acid dragon and are awaiting their own lab results. Marcel Kuhlmey of the Office of Criminal Investigation in Berlin says they may be "more profound" than those of their colleagues in the Rhineland.
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