15 February 2010
Chinese people around the world are celebrating their most important holiday, Chinese New Year. But for one man in Taiwan, it's all about business as he washes dirty banknotes for gifts.
Click to hear the report:
According to Chinese tradition, parents give their children clean, fresh banknotes at the start of the new year. But such notes are in high demand in the run-up to the holiday period, and Yao Guan Cheng noticed a gap in the market.
Yao Guan Cheng (translated):
"When we first started this business, it was for family members who liked to collect antique banknotes. But later on, it struck me that this service would come in handy for the Chinese New Year. It is one of our customs to put banknotes inside little red envelopes in order to bring our children good luck.
"To do that, people change old notes for new ones at the banks. But here in Taiwan, there are all sorts of restrictions as to how much you can change, what days you can do that and which banks you can go to. That's inconvenient. So I thought: why not give people an alternative?"
He doesn't just soak the notes in water, he uses special chemicals that are a closely guarded secret. His services don't come cheap, he charges about $10 for washing twenty banknotes. But in the run-up to the new year holiday, he's been in demand, cleaning people's banknotes and in the process, giving a new, cleaner, image to the term 'money laundering'.
Kate McGeown, BBC News
Click to hear the vocabulary:
- are in high demand
are wanted in large numbers by many people
- in the run-up to
during the time just before an event or specific date
- a gap in the market
a business opportunity, a chance to make money by providing something or a service that was not available
something that is very old, usually more than a hundred years old
- it struck me
it suddenly occured to me, I suddenly realised that
useful and easy to use
difficult, causes problems
- soak the notes in water
leave the money in water for quite a long time
- a closely guarded secret
information that is only known to a few selected people
- money laundering
an illegal process by which criminals attempt to hide money from government officials because it has been earned illegally or taxes should be paid on it