Tag: airport cash seizure

A picture of nearly $150,000 in cash seized by CBP laid out on a table

Seizures of undeclared cash from Chinese nationals on the rise

In “Seizures of undeclared cash spike at Vancouver International Airport“, reporters for The Globe & Mail did a lot of good reporting work and present interesting information on customs cash seizures from Chinese nationals occurring in Canada.

For instance, in the past 3 years customs seized $13 million dollars from 792 Chinese nationals passing through the airport. The average seizure was $17,000. The substance of the article is that these people are bringing the money into the country to get it out of China’s economy (which they fear may crash), to buy homes and/or invest in real estate. This has artificially inflated the property values in cities like Vancouver, and the government there imposed a tax on foreign purchasers of real estate to cool the market. We’ve previously blogged about this in Cash From China Seized Due to Capital Controls and Why some Chinese travel with cash leading to airport seizures.

If you’re interested in customs cash seizures, you should definitely check out the entire article. However, I’ll quote what I find most interesting below:

As Vancouver’s housing market began sizzling, border guards at the nearby international airport were seizing millions of dollars in undeclared cash from Chinese citizens, with total amounts jumping 50 per cent in each of the past three calendar years, government data show.

According to the information, released to The Globe and Mail by a New Democrat MLA, during that period, border guards confiscated more than $13-million in hidden currency from 792 Chinese people passing through Vancouver International Airport, which is Canada’s second-busiest after Toronto. The average person had $17,000 in hidden bills, bank notes or drafts.

That is in addition to the $323-million declared at the airport by 20,000 Chinese citizens or passengers on flights to and from that country, during roughly the same period, according to data released to The Globe through a freedom of information request.

Experts say these sums of hidden and declared money, which dwarf the funds brought through the airport from other countries, were likely carried by some of the 922,000 people from China recently given 10-year temporary visas, which allow them to visit for up to six months at a time.

Former RCMP investigator and financial crimes specialist Kim Marsh said many travellers bring large amounts of money – or bank notes or drafts – instead of transferring them through institutional routes because they want to avoid paying taxes in Canada and get around Chinese currency laws that make it illegal for the average citizen to take more than $50,000 (U.S.) a year out of that country.

[ . . . ]

Daniel Kiselbach, a Vancouver-based tax litigator, said the vast majority of Chinese citizens bringing large amounts of cash into B.C. are “just trying to get along in life and they have legitimate reasons for having the money in their possession,” such as buying gifts for family members or paying for living expenses at university.

He said that these visitors have many disincentives to report their assets to the Chinese government and are likely just as suspicious of how information on their finances will be handled in Canada.

“Maybe that would get back to the Chinese government, I don’t know,” Mr. Kiselbach said.

Two years ago, Mr. Kiselbach tried to get Ottawa to divulge whether it has an agreement to share such information with China, as it does with the United States and other Commonwealth countries. Canada Border Services Agency does not make these agreements public, he said.

Vancouver MLA David Eby, housing critic for the opposition New Democrats, said he is concerned that the amount of cash seized from Chinese citizens at YVR rose from $2.8-million in 2013 to $6.4-million last year.

[. . . ]

Anyone can bring as much money as they want in or out of Canada as long as they declare any sum of $10,000 or more – otherwise it could be seized. Border guards at Vancouver airport confiscated $19-million in undeclared cash from 2013 to 2015, with almost three quarters of it belonging to Chinese citizens. (Upwards of 3,200 passengers arrive each day from flights originating in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to data from the airport.)

Experts say Chinese travellers could have several reasons for not declaring assets.

Mr. Kiselbach added that CBSA likely ramped up the scrutiny on Chinese passengers because it gives increased attention to citizens from countries deemed a high risk for activities such as money laundering and financing terrorism.

Hayley Howe, an anti-money laundering expert at Vancouver-based consulting firm MNP, said many foreign visitors may be unaware of Canada’s currency reporting requirements or unable to read the customs form properly when they enter or exit the country.

Has U.S. Customs & Border Protection  seized your cash?

If U.S. Customs & Border Protection has seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

$45,000 of cash seized in envelopes by CBP laid out in 3 rows of 15 on on a wood table with a CBP logo

CBP Seizes $44k from Couple Flying to Ghana

What happens when you’re going to Ghana and you don’t declare your cash to CBP? Your cash is a Goner! Last week, CBP at Dulles Airport in Sterling Virginia seized $44,606 from a couple leaving the United States from Ghana.

According to CBP, the couple told CBP they only had $14,000…. that’s about $30,000 less than what they were carrying. If true, that is a pretty serious failure to report violation. No one forgets they are carrying $30,000 less than they have.

But there are always two sides to every story. In my experience, CBP occasionally has a way of justifying cash seizures if the facts later turn out not to support their reasons for seizure (like when family is traveling together and they think the money was intentionally structured). Here’s the story from CBP’s perspective:

In separate incidents on Monday at Washington Dulles International Airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers intercepted an impostor who arrived from Ghana, and seized about $44,000 from a couple heading to Ghana.

[ . . . ]

Moments later, a CBP K9 alert led to CBP officers seizing a total of $44,606 in U.S. dollars and equivalent foreign currency from a Ghanaian couple who attempted to board a flight to Ghana. The woman was already on the flight when CBP officers interviewed the man. The Ghanaian man reported to CBP officers that he possessed $9,000. He then reported that his wife had an additional $5,000. CBP officers discovered the additional currency during a baggage inspection.

CBP returned $1,500 to the couple and released them to continue their journey.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however, federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

None of the three travelers was arrested. The Privacy Act prohibits releasing the travelers’ names since they were not criminally charged.

“These are two very serious violations of U.S. immigration and currency reporting laws, and these travelers are very fortunate to avoid criminal prosecution,” said Wayne Biondi, CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Washington Dulles. “Customs and Border Protection hopes that these incidents are a reminder to all travelers to be truthful with CBP officers. The United States is a welcoming country, especially to those who respect our nation’s laws.”

Has CBP seized your cash?

If CBP has seized your cash, you need a lawyer. Read our trusted customs money seizure legal guide and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

CBP Cash Seizure Chicago O’Hare Airport

On April 12, 2016, some poor soul in Chicago had over $16,000 currency seized at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. For what, you ask? Well, judging from the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit published Friday last, some violation of Title 31 of the United States Code.

PUBLICATION/POSTING START: June 24, 2016
PUBLICATION/POSTING END: July 23, 2016
DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM: August 23, 2016

2016390100067501-002-0000, Seized on 04/12/2016; At the port of CHICAGO, IL; U.S. CURRENCY; 768; EA; Valued at $16,210.00; For violation of 31USC

As can be seen, the notice published on the forfeiture.gov contains, what I assume, is a clerical error. Typically, these notices will contain a host of laws violated. 31 USC is not a law, but rather, an entire book of laws that outlines the role of money and finance in the United States. It is most likely that the money was seized for purported violations of the usual suspects; 31 USC 5316, 31 USC 5324 and/or 31 USC 5332.

My sources tell me that O’Hare International Airport recently began permitting on-site mitigation of cash seizures valued at less than $25,000, to ease the processing burden on the folks who handle the petitions filed with FP&F Chicago. Customs policy permits individual ports to choose to offer on-site mitigation when the persons are transporting less than $25,000 and they mis-report an amount that is 5% or less in variance with the actual amount being transported.

If on-site mitigation was an option, the likely explanation for the seizure still occurring is a misreport of 5% or more in the amount that was being carried by the traveler. Over the years, we’ve helped a lot of people who have their cash seized by CBP at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Do not let your cash seizure case in Chicago get to the point that CBP publishes a forfeiture notice.

Did CBP seize cash from you at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport?

If you have had currency seized from Chicago CBP, please contact us in Chicago at (773) 920-1840. Our customs lawyer in Chicago’s office is a short walk from U.S. Customs & Border Protection Chicago’s Fines, Penalties & Forfeitures office.

CBP checkpoint at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel border crossing, with vehicles in the foreground.

Over $350k per day in cash seized by CBP in 2015

CBP tweeted the other day about cash seized by CBP in 2015, and drug seizures. On “a typical day,” CPP seized $356,396 in cash nationwide; based on the number for the Detroit field office, $27,581 was seized “on a typical day” in Detroit.

Because CBP Detroit was #2 in the nation for currency seizures based on total amount of seizures (totaling $10M), a large part of that national average is due to the efforts of CBP Officers at the ports in the Detroit Field Office, most especially the officers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

The cash seizures are from you run-of-the-mill everyday traveler who are bringing money to the United States for tuition, medical treatment, and to establish a new life; other times, the cash seizures are part of a cash smuggling operation bringing the money into or out of the United States to further the illicit narcotics trade across the borders.

In Detroit, our experience is most of these cases are run-of-the-mill travelers coming into the United States with legitimate money that’s intended to be used for legitimate sources. With our experience and good documentation, we are help to get cash back from Customs after seizure.

The lesson? Prevent seizure of cash by reporting all currency, fully, accurately, and completely to U.S. Customs & Border Protection before they have a chance to stop and question you about it. Don’t be like the poor folks who had their cash seized by CBP in 2015, be sure to report your money. Remember, the duty it yours to report the transportation of more than $10,000 into or out of the country before you are ever asked to make a report!

$45,000 of cash seized in envelopes by CBP laid out in 3 rows of 15 on on a wood table with a CBP logo

CBP Seized $45,000 Cash in Envelopes

Dulles CBP seized cash in envelopes from a man en route to Belgium last Sunday. According to the story,

$45,000 of cash seized in envelopes by CBP laid out in 3 rows of 15 on on a wood table with a CBP logo
CBP at Dulles Airport seized $45,000 for failure to report the cash to customs.

the man reported having $30,000 only after being stopped. In reality, he had a total of $44,922.

The officers told him how to petition for return of his cash, but why would anyone take legal advice from a non-lawyer, especially law enforcement that just seized a stash of cash hidden in envelopes? This is why we offer a free currency seizure consultation, and why we’ve provided some guidance on options other than filing a petition; such as a claim and offer in compromise. Here’s CBP’s story:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Field Operations (OFO), at Washington Dulles International Airport seized $44,922 Sunday from a Maryland man for violating federal currency reporting regulations.

There is no limit to how much currency travelers can import or export; however federal law requires travelers to report to CBP amounts exceeding $10,000 in U.S. dollars or equivalent foreign currency.

A man was boarding a flight to Belgium and was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on an international flight. The man completed a financial form, reporting $30,000 however; a total of $44,922 was discovered within two envelopes on his person. CBP officers seized the $44,922 and advised him how to petition for the return of the rest of the currency.

“Travelers who refuse to comply with federal currency reporting requirements run the risk of having their currency seized, and may potentially face criminal charges,” said Patrick Orender, CBP Assistant Port Director for the Port of Washington Dulles. “The traveler was given the opportunity to truthfully report his currency. The easiest way to hold on to your money is to report it.”

Has CBP seized cash in envelopes from you?

If you’ve had cash seized in envelopes at Dulles or another airport, you can learn more from our trusted legal guide to a customs money seizure and can contact us for a free currency seizure consultation by clicking the contact buttons on this page.

A pile of $20 bills on a table.

$16k Dulles Airport Currency Seizure by CBP

A Dulles airport currency seizure of $16,000 by CBP was reported by Customs this week. The seizure

A pile of $20 bills on a table, similar to the Dulles airport currency seizure case mentioned in this article
A Dulles airport currency seizure resulted in the seizure of $16,000 by CBP.

occurred last Thursday, when a woman traveling to Ghana was stopped and searched by Customs when she failed to report traveling with $6,951 more than she had.

According to the story, the currency was found in both her luggage and on her person; CBP may use this as a basis to allege not only a failure to report, but also bulk cash smuggling. If Dulles alleges bulk cash smuggling as reason they seized the money in the notice of seizure, this lady will almost certainly be looking at a huge loss of money as a penalty, even if she can prove it came from a legitimate source and had a legitimate intended use. This is because bulk cash smuggling permits Customs to keep more of the money as a penalty.

Here is the excerpt from the full Customs Dulles airport currency seizure story:

A woman boarding a flight to Ghana was selected for questioning by CBP officers who were conducting an outbound enforcement operation on an international flight. The woman completed a financial form, reporting $10,000, however; a total of $16,951 in U.S. and foreign currency was discovered on her person and in her luggage. CBP officers seized the $16,951, returned the equivalent of $192 in foreign currency as humanitarian relief, and advised her how to petition for the return of the rest of the currency.

As I’ve said before, don’t take legal advice from Customs. Depending on the source of the money and the circumstances of the seizure filing an administrative petition might not be her best option; it could be that filing a claim, making an offer in compromise, or filing a petition in the federal court are the best options. If you’ve experienced a Customs Dulles airport currency seizure use our trusted legal road-map of a customs money seizure or contact us for a free currency seizure consultation!

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs

What happens to money and property seized by Customs?

Once U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizes your money or property it can eventually be forfeited (lost forever to the government); it doesn’t matter if it’s merchandise or cash/currency transported without being reported, structured, or smuggled. Before the property is forfeited the owner can try to get it back (remitted).

But once property is forfeited, it forever becomes property of the United States Government. As a government attorney once told me, it goes to that big government warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don’t think he was joking.

What happens after property is seized by Customs?

First, appraisement: CBP must give anything seized a “domestic value.” This is usually measured by

A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs
A chart showing what happens after money and property are seized by Customs (click to elarge)

“price at which such or similar property is freely offered for sale at the time and place of appraisement, in the same quantity or quantities as seized, and in the ordinary course of trade.” Although an oversimplification, this is basically the fair-market value of the seized property at the time and place of seizure.

Customs conducts an inspection of the goods to determine if they are admissible (i.e., whether they can be allowed entry into the U.S.). Certain things, like narcotics, unsafe electrical components, or lead-tainted children’s toys are inadmissable.

What happens after property is forfeited by Customs?

If the goods are admissible, but the importer could not get the property back at the agency or through federal district court, then Customs can:

  1. Destroy it. If Customs determines it violates copyright laws, has no commercial value, or is a safety risk or violates U.S. law, the port director is authorized destroy the forfeited merchandise. If this doesn’t apply, it can be disposed elsewhere.
  2. Sell it. If the merchandise is sold, Customs will notify the importer, the consignee, the shipper, and the warehouse transferee of the sale no less than 30 days beforehand and then hold a public auction, sometimes online, overseen by the port director. This includes perishables, agricultural products, alcoholic beverages, and vehicles. Counterfeit goods may be sold with the permission of the U.S. trademark holder once the counterfeit mark has been obliterated and at least 90 days after forfeiture, provided that no government agency or charitable institution has a need for them. For example, customs has donated seized fossils to the University of Michigan in the past.
  3. Use it. Last, the government can use it. The products must be unclaimed or abandoned, which means nonpayment of duties and 6 months in Customs custody. The port director must give a 30 day notice, as above. Afterward, the items belong to Customs and they can decide to to use it or distribute it to another government agency.

Item 3 is true for seized money/currency. At the completion of all procedures, seized and forfeited money transfers to the U.S. government. If your money was seized by Customs, read our Customs Money Seizure Legal Guide.