CBP Seizes $18,000 in Abu Dhabi, UAE

CBP seized about $18,000 from a set of travelers traveling to the United States from the United Arab Emirates.

That’s not unusual but might be surprising to some, because most seizures occur on U.S. soil either at the time of departure, or at arrival. CBP operates “preclearance” centers in a few spots around the globe. The idea of the preclearance center is to do the customs work before the person ever steps on U.S. soil, so that upon their arrival, they do not have to go through customs at all, because it was already done in the country of departure.

It’s not too unusual, because since October 1, 2018, CBP has seized more than $2 million from passengers at pre-clearance centers for violations of the currency reporting requirements.

The Wikipedia article says that CBP officers operating on foreign soil do not have the full power of search and arrest that they enjoy in the United States, and so most things must be done with the consent of the passenger:

Since CBP does not have legal powers on foreign soil, passengers can be detained for local laws only by local authorities. Passengers can choose to abandon their flight and refuse search, and unlike in the United States, officers cannot search them. Most preclearance facilities have a sign explaining so.


The particulars of these case, beyond the fact that it happened in the UAE, are not different from situations we usually blog about. So, on to the story:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Abu Dhabi Preclearance seized $18,357 in unreported currency, Feb. 18. 

A U.S. couple and another family member were traveling to Wisconsin and Iowa respectively when CBP officers working at the Preclearance facility asked the family for a currency declaration.  The family reported carrying $8500.

When CBP officers requested the family complete the required FinCEN Form, the family group amended the currency amount to $17,000.  However, during the baggage examination, CBP officers discovered the U.S. couple was carrying $18,357. 

“International travelers can carry an unlimited amount of money into or departing from the U.S., but they are required to report traveling with currency over $10,000,” said CBP Preclearance Director of Field Operations Clint Lamm.  “Those who refuse to comply with the federal reporting requirements risk having the currency seized.”

The travelers were given multiple opportunities to truthfully report the amount of money they were carrying.  CBP officers seized $17,357 and the group was allowed to continue their travel.

In FY 2019, CBP Preclearance has seized nearly $2 million in unreported currency from travelers refusing to provide a truthful declaration.