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French Bank, Crédit Municipal de Paris, Cancels The Debts Of Its Poorest Customers

01/30/2012 01:41 pm ET

A 375-year-old French bank has decided to forgive the debts of its poorest customers, Good.is reports.

The Crédit Municipal de Paris, a Parisian institution that offers small, low-interest loans against inexpensive valuables, has announced a one-time cancelation of the debts of some 3,500 customers who owed the bank 150 euros (about $190) or less. The announcement marks the bank's 375th anniversary.

A PR stunt? Maybe. But that isn't stopping thousands of customers from celebrating an unexpected windfall.

"It was nice, I have recovered it all," Lina, a young mother, told Europe1. In May, Lina had borrowed 120 euros by pawning her jewelry.

Bank officials say that the European economic crisis has resulted in a 30 percent increase in customers. "People used to get their property back after 11 to 13 months; now it's closer to 24 months," spokesperson Florence Marambat told Good.is.

According to the New York Times, the bank exists in lieu of private pawn shops in France and has served clients like Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

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