Europe

500-euro bill, beloved by money launderers, is discontinued

  • A boy puts coins in a tin, bearing the design of a 500-euro bank note, for a performer creating soap bubbles in Monastiraki Square, central Athens, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering.The European Central Bank’s 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

    A boy puts coins in a tin, bearing the design of a 500-euro bank note, for a performer creating soap bubbles in Monastiraki Square, central Athens, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering.The European Central Bank’s 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Saturday Sept. 1, 2001 file photo, Aline Heurley from Flensburg looks at a 500-Euro bank note in front of a poster showing the new Euro currency during a public presentation of the new Euro at the branch office of the German Federal Bank in Flensburg, northern Germany. The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering. The European Central Bank’s 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Heribert Proepper, File)

    FILE - In this Saturday Sept. 1, 2001 file photo, Aline Heurley from Flensburg looks at a 500-Euro bank note in front of a poster showing the new Euro currency during a public presentation of the new Euro at the branch office of the German Federal Bank in Flensburg, northern Germany. The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering. The European Central Bank’s 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday May 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Heribert Proepper, File)  (The Associated Press)

The 500-euro bill is being discontinued after criticism that the banknote had become a handy aid to money laundering.

The European Central Bank's 25-member governing council made the decision at a meeting Wednesday.

Banknotes currently in circulation will remain legal but will no longer be issued after late 2018.

The ECB said it was "taking into account concerns that this banknote could facilitate illicit activities."

The bills — the biggest denomination for the euro — are rarely seen in day-to-day circulation, and some merchants don't take them. Yet they make up around 30 percent of the roughly 1 trillion euros ($1.15 trillion) in circulation and have turned up in money-laundering investigations.

A million euros in 500-euro bills weighs 2.2 kilograms (just under 5 pounds) and fits in a laptop bag.