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Italians throwing away cash in coronavirus crisis? No, photos of old Venezuelan currency dumped by robbers

Two photos showing thousands of banknotes scattered in a street have been shared on Facebook with the claim they were taken in Italy.

“Italian streets littered with Euros. They say they don't need them. It's not about money anymore but if you'll wake up tomorrow. Their lives are at stake,” the post reads.

As at 5 April 2020 Italy had the world’s highest death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, and the third highest number of Covid-19 cases after the US and Spain.

But does the photo show cash thrown away by despairing Italians?

Old currency in Venezuela

Reverse image searches reveal that both photos were taken many months before the new coronavirus was first identified in China, in December 2019.

A search for the first photo shows it was in circulation as early as 19 March 2019 alongside others under the title “Venezuela Street Scenery”.

It also appeared on Brazilian fact-checking website, identified as an old valueless Venezuelan currency thrown in the street by bandits who had robbed the Bicentenario Bank in Merida.

“Since these banknotes were worth absolutely nothing, the bandits spread the banknotes through the streets adjacent to the bank branch and even burned some amounts. Apparently, even bandits are protesting the economic situation in Venezuela,” the article says.

Venezuela rolled out a new currency in 2018 in a bid to manage inflation. This made the old currency worthless.

A search for the second photo shows it was also online months before the Covid-19 outbreak. It appeared in a Twitter post from 12 March 2019 that also detailed the looting of Bicentenario Bank. 

Using Google Translate, Africa Check translated the word “Bicentennial Bank looted” into “Banco Bicentenario saqueado” in Spanish, Venezuela’s official language, and searched for it on Google.

Several articles on the incident appeared. One website shared tweets showing photos and videos of the incident. – Dancan Bwire


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