Male Model Has $646,000 Confiscated at Airport

In June I wrote about a man who had his life savings confiscated because his luggage smelled of pot. It was one of over 90 such seizures in a year at the Cincinnati airport alone.

In July I wrote about a man who had $44,000 seized at New York JFK even though he was never charged with a crime. He couldn’t get his money back because it took him 90 days to get assistance jumping through all of the required hoops to file a petition for the funds to be returned — and the government only gives you 35 days to file in federal court.

Of course famous people who actually become abusive inflight don’t suffer such punishments.

However civil asset forfeiture is hardly a uniquely American problem. Via uggboy on Milepoint, a male model who used to work at Dublin airport (and apparently wasn’t famous enough) was stopped there and had 570,000 euros (US$646,000) confiscated.

The man was released after questioning (which underscores there was no evidence of a crime). His money was not. “Revenue officials immediately made a court application to retain the cash while they investigate whether it is the proceeds of crime.” (Emphasis mine.)

he man will be without his funds for three months at a minimum if the government determines they cannot find any evidence of criminal activity. Other than carrying lots of money, which is apparently in and of itself punishable by at least temporary forfeiture of that money.

He was flying from Ireland to Belgium — both EU countries though Ireland is not a Schengen country. Had he been entering or leaving the EU he would have been required to declare the cash, and subject to a fine for failure to do so. He was not.

In the U.S., in the event someone goes through the time and expense to challenge the government’s seizure of cash, the standard is ‘preponderance of the evidence’ rather than ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ — the government gets to show it’s ‘more likely than not’ that the property was in some way tied to illicit activity. Property doesn’t get due process rights.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A form is required to transport cash (or cash equivalents) when the value exceeds $10,000. I think that’s the amount. There’s a similar checkbox on the IRS form for US expats who have foreign currency-denominated bank accounts that have contained more than $10,000 at any point throughout the tax year. Uninformed people often get caught in the middle, but it’s money launderers they’re going after. Anyone who’s traveling with $646,000 is up to something shady.

  2. Shame! I do not know where these boys got their cash, but it is not difficult to guess. That said, where is the proof of criminal behavior? Carrying large sums of cash is NOT in itself a crime.
    When I travel from and to the U.S., I often carry far more than the declarable $10K. I say so and if asked, explain why. (Not discussed here). I do have a reason, I’ve never been challenged and never had anything seized. In the end, If the law says Declare It, do so, but quietly. Others present do not need to know your business. Moving cash is not difficult, but lying about it will always get you into serious trouble.
    When crossing most U.S. border points, I hand over my declarations sheet and then hold an index finger across my lips. The majority of USCPB folks get it and no discussion happens in the line. Most often I’m just passed – the HAVE the declaration. Rarely, I’m called out to explain a bit, I do so and I pass on. I don’ think it has ever taken more than five minutes. I generally declare x-thousand in currency and add, “plus pocket money.” It works for me – and I have noting to hide. -C.

  3. Civil asset forfeiture is a disgrace to our constitution and the rule of law. If the police agencies couldn’t keep the cash — if they had to give it to charity, for example — I bet you’d see zero cases of State of New York v 30,000 in cash.

  4. These $10,000 disclosures are in many countries, Canada and Australia have them also for example. Just because you do not know what the law is does not make you exempt from the law. If a passenger is bring Pot from Colorado into Wyoming does that mean he is exempt just because it is legal in CO? Call a lawyer or check with law enforcement before you may break the law.
    If you are stupid enough to hide your money in a mattress and the house burns down Then you deserve to lose your money. If you are stupid enough to bring mover then $10,000 cash into another country with out proof where you obtain the money, if not from theft or selling drugs then you deserve to lose your money. If it takes you 44 days to prove where your cash comes from then it is probably not from legal sources.
    There is one simple solution to avoid this. Wire the money from one bank account to another bank account. Now you do not have to complete one of those forms!

  5. @TomRI….I disagree with your entire post.

    CARRYING CASH IS NOT A CRIME (at least it didn’t used to be). It’s none of your business, or any governments, if I choose to keep MY MONEY in cash under a mattress. Yeah, we all know that all banks are safe. Ask the people in Cyprus and Greece if they would have preferred having their emergency cash/life savings in their friendly, local bank (which suddenly took a bank holiday and limited withdrawals) or under their mattress.

    Please don’t respond with the deflection of a possible crime. In this case it seems it is yet another version of, “you gave us no probable cause, but we still consider you guilty of something and we will keep your cash until we finish our investigation.and even then you may not get it back.” That is simply unacceptable.

  6. This is a very different situation than civil asset forfeiture at US airports. If the money has been seized at a US airport, you have to prove that it was not proceeds of a crime. If nothing is done, the government keeps the money.
    In this case, the government has to prove that it is proceeds of crime, so if nothing happens, the money will be returned to the owner. I think that this is a much more reasonable approach to what appears to be suspicious activity. Yes, I do think that carrying more than $600,000 in cash is sufficiently suspicious to warrant further investigation and if they do not hold it, then it is likely to disappear. I also think that if the person in question can provide a reasonable explanation (and paper trail) for the cash, that it will likely be returned to them long before 90 days.
    To pretend that this case is equivalent to civil asset forfeiture in the US is disingenuous at best.

  7. So much for intra-EU mobility of capital. The way it works for intra-EU crossborder movements of relatively large volumes of cash and select other instruments is that the customs declaration requirements vary by country, with national reporting requirements still allowed to vary even if the cash transfer is intra-EU. American rapper traveling from Italy to the UK got nailed by Italian authorities even as the UK has no customs declaration requirement for cash coming in from within the EU.

  8. The $10,000 declaration has not been adjusted for inflation. Clearly this needs to be raised. Luckily no one has to declare their credit cards. There’s a million right there.

    Can’t wait for an article on FBAR and FATCA. Those laws forcing a declaration is illegal under the US Constitution.

  9. I think seizures of cash without strong probable cause are per se outrageous and against person’s “unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” enumerate in the Declaration of Independence.

    Further the government agency should pay a high interest rate on cash seized. Say, for example, the 25%, like credit cards.

    Also, agree with Martha, it is easy to spend over $10,000 on a two week vacation. The number is way too low in today’s world.

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