The Washington Post

Forget Paris: French authorities put an end to planned treasure hunt

Non money, non problems. (Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images)

Just how bad are things in France right now?

These days, you can't even get free money in via lighthearted social media-based treasure hunts in the City of Light: According to The Telegraph, authorities in Paris have nixed a hidden-cash search that was planned for the city, telling an American organizer of the event that he could face jail time or a fine for hiding money in public spaces.

"I got that email yesterday," said Jason Buzi, whose Hidden Cash project has exploded on Twitter this summer, "and it was pretty definitive, saying 'no you can't do this, and have a nice life,' basically."

Buzi — who has staged similar hunts in cities including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — told The Post on Thursday that he'll try to find a different prize for participants … it just won't be cash. And he'll definitely clear the plan with police first.

"I don't think they'll extradite me," said Buzi, who made his fortune in real estate, "but I would like to go back to Paris without being arrested at the airport."

Buzi's treasure hunts are fairly low-stakes and don't involve massive sums of cash, but the decision to stop his cash-stashing game comes at an interesting time in France, where money and wealth are a large part of the national conversation.

Earlier this week, according to the Wall Street Journal, the national statistics office projected economic growth of 0.7 percent, a figure that fell below the French government's forecasts. Two years into socialist president Francois Hollande's presidency, the country's unemployment rate remains a problem.

In 2012, actor Gérard Depardieu left France — a move that appeared to be for tax-related reasons — and was criticized by then-prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who called his decision "rather pathetic." And according to a letter authorities sent to Buzi, a previous attempt to distribute free money in Paris ended fairly poorly. That effort — put together in 2009 by a private company — led to public disturbances and was ultimately canceled, police said.

Buzi and his team started hiding money in cities across the U.S. earlier this year. They've also staged treasure hunts in Mexico City and London, and an event is planned for Madrid soon.

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.



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