A traveler bound for Ethiopa had $13,000 seized from him by U.S. Customs & Border Protection at Dulles airport a few weeks back. This story is part of the (seemingly) un-ending trend of currency seizures coming from Dulles airport lately.
The facts are largely the same as most of the other stories. A U.S. citizen attempts to leave the United States without first making the required currency report to Customs. The man probably thought he would not have to report it because — after all, you do not pass through Customs when leaving the country, only when arriving. But the currency reporting requirement applies equally to those entering the country and to those leaving the country.
During an outbound inspection, the man declared, both verbally and in writing, to CBP officers that he possessed $5,000; however, CBP officers discovered a total of $13,294 on his person and in his luggage. The officers seized the $13,294, returning the equivalent of $424 in foreign and U.S. currency for humanitarian relief, and advised him how to petition for the return of the currency. The traveler was then released to continue his journey.
A verbal or written declaration gets you nowhere if it is inaccurate. What form did he make the written declaration on and why? No declaration is required for monetary instruments of $10,000 or less, so why would Customs make him complete a written declaration?
The only reason would be to have affirmative proof that he did not make a proper verbal declaration of the money by being able to say, “See, he also lied about it in writing. It is not our word against his. His very own handwriting — his written declaration — also proves him guilty.”
By obtaining a written declaration, Dulles may have a stronger case if they try to prove that the money is subject to forfeiture for bulk cash smuggling violations.Yes, watch out in Dulles for strict enforcement of Customs guidelines concerning seizure of monetary instruments for structuring and bulk cash smuggling offenses.