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Euro coin smuggling ring worth $8.4 million busted

euro coins, bills, currency, europe, money
Euro coin smuggling ring worth $8.4 million busted
euro currency

(CBS) - It can be tough lugging heavy bags through the airport. It can be even tougher when those bags are weighed down with thousands of euro coins, as was the case in early 2010 when a flight attendant was stopped by customs and allegedly discovered with contraband currency. The incident sparked an international investigation that unveiled a multimillion dollar coin fraud ring.

The investigation has led to six arrests, four in China and has potentially implicated employees of German airline Lufthansa, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors in Frankfurt believe the coin ring operated by taking damaged Euro coins - sent to China to be used as scrap metal - and smuggling them into Germany. Coins sent to scrap are often broken in to pieces, which the suspects allegedly put back together. These coins were then exchanged at Bundesbank, the central bank of Germany, eventually amassing 6 million euros ($8.4 million.)

In a statement republished by Reuters, prosecutors emphasized that airline crewmembers do not have weight limits on their luggage. They also added that they had no reason to suspect anyone associated with Bundesbank at this time. Germany's central bank is the only institute in Europe that exchanges damaged euro coins for free.

In addition to the arrests, investigators say they discovered 3 metric tons of coin pieces as well as machinery for putting them back together.

Of course, none of this would have come to light if that stewardess had packed lightly.