From Iceland — Chinese Tourist's Coin Collection Is Genuine

Chinese Tourist’s Coin Collection Is Genuine

Published May 29, 2020

Sam O'Donnell
Photo by
Vísir/Stöð 2

An investigation by the Central Bank has revealed that Chinese tourist Wei Li’s coins that he brought to Iceland are genuine, Vísir reports.

Wei Li attracted a lot of attention when he brought roughly 170 kilos of Icelandic currency to the country, with an estimated value of 1.6 million ISK. Many of the coins had been damaged, but Wei Li said he received the coins from an Icelandic speculator. Part of the coins were said to have come from a recycling company that buys crushed cars from Iceland.

The arrangement was such that he did not pay the numismatician for the coins unless he managed to exchange them in Iceland. Wei Li would then pay his source a percentage of the exchanged currency. He had previously made two such trips to Iceland and managed to exchange several million krónur this way.

His routine was always the same: he would come to Iceland, exchange the money, enjoy life in Iceland with the coins that were not damaged, and donate the rest to charity organisation Samhjálp before returning to China.

He tried to divide the coins into different banks, and managed to do so in some locations, but he was stopped at Arion Bank. Ultimately, the Central Bank of Iceland turned his coin collection over to the authorities when they suspected him of some undisclosed malfeasance. The coins went to the Royal Mint in the UK, where Icelandic currency is minted. The results of that investigation show that his coins were genuine.

Arion Bank stands by their decision to refuse service to Wei Li, and insists that they will not do business with the tourist, because they are under no obligation to receive funds from anyone who does not have an account with the bank. They further emphasise that they are under strict obligation to adhere to rules and regulations against money laundering and terrorist financing, and because there is still some uncertainty as to the origin of the coins, they cannot bring themselves to accept the money.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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