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Syrian Refugee Finds $55,000 Cash, Turns It In To German Police

Muhannad M. stands to get a reward of less than $5,000, after turning in some $150,000 in cash and bank documents that he found in a used piece of furniture.
Minden Police
Muhannad M. stands to get a reward of less than $5,000, after turning in some $150,000 in cash and bank documents that he found in a used piece of furniture.

The windfall must have seemed heaven-sent. How else to explain a young man who had fled Syria's violence and reached Germany — where he realized the donated wardrobe he'd been given contained 50,000 euros (around $55,000) in cash?

But instead of keeping it, the man contacted the immigration office to ask about turning the money in. And so, eight months after he entered Germany as a refugee from Homs, Syria, the man is being praised as a hero by local police for his honesty.

The man, identified by German media as Muhannad M., was given the wardrobe to help furnish his apartment in Minden, a city west of Hanover. As he cleaned and reassembled the pieces, he found a wide storage pouch hidden beneath a lower shelf. In it: a hundred 500-euro notes, along with bank passbooks to accounts holding an additional 100,000 euros (around $110,000).

Currency and bank papers were hidden in this compartment beneath a shelf in an old wardrobe.
/ Minden Police
/
Minden Police
Currency and bank papers were hidden in this compartment beneath a shelf in an old wardrobe.

Before he could decide what to do with the money, Muhannad, 25, first had to check whether the 500-euro notes were real. A check online revealed that they were.

The money could have helped Muhannad get his two younger brothers out of Syria and into a new life in Germany. But he tells Germany's Bild newspaper that he couldn't do that.

"I am a Muslim. I'm not allowed to keep this money. My religion forbids it," he said, in a translation by news site The Local. "Allah would never allow me to finance my own interests with someone else's wealth."

Muhannad stands to get a reward of 3 percent of the total amount of his discovery – around $4,500. The police in Minden say they're trying to track down the wardrobe's former owner.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.