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Italian woman wins right to convert lire hoard

AFP-JIJI

An Italian woman who discovered millions of lire in an old chest of drawers has won the right to convert the hoard into euros after a court ruled that a 2011 deadline for exchanging the former currency was unconstitutional.

Observers expect further cases to emerge after a constitutional court found that Viola Colombo should be allowed to hand in her 15 million lire and exchange it for €7,750 in today’s money, the Agitalia consumer association said, confirming media reports.

In a Nov. 5 ruling posted online, the court declared unconstitutional a Dec. 6, 2011, decree banning conversions from that date as part of a government bid to clamp down on money laundering following the introduction of the euro in 2002.

Colombo, who lives in Venice, stumbled upon the cash in 2014 after noticing a hidden compartment in a second-hand chest of drawers she had bought on online auction site eBay, the Corriere del Veneto newspaper reported.

Inside a drawer with a false bottom, she found 15 million lire in 100,000-lire notes, each worth some €52.

Italy’s central bank refused to convert the haul into euros, however, so she took the case to Agitalia, which appealed to the constitutional court.

Agitalia has urged Italians still in possession of lire to come forward before a new, three-month window for conversions expires on Feb. 5.

Financial experts estimate some 1.3 billion lire — around €670,000 — remain stashed away across Italy.