Several Reddit threads picked up on the story published by the Washington Post on May 31, 2018, regarding the seizure of $58,000 by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The most active thread states the life savings of 64-year-old Cleveland resident, Rustem Kazazi, was seized at an airport in 2017 and Kazazi is now suing the CBP.
Officials seized the funds on the basis Kazazi might be involved in money laundering, drug trafficking or smuggling, but he has denied the claims against him. He argued that he was taking the funds to his home country of Albania to pay for property repairs to family homes. Kazazi has not been charged with any criminal offense, but CBP has refused to return the funds.
The CBP is also being sued by 59-year-old Anthonia Nwaorie from Katy, Texas in an almost identical case. In 2017, Nwaorie was stopped at Houston airport and had $41,000 seized by CBP. She was taking the money to her home country in Nigeria to build a medical clinic, and like Kazazi, she has not been charged with any criminal offense.
In 2013, Cyprus imposed capital controls as part of a €10 billion EU bailout which temporarily banned people taking more than €3,000 of bank notes out of the country. Until such time as more banks collapse in the USA and Europe, there are no restrictions on the amount of money individuals can take with them when they leave most countries. However, individuals must declare any amounts over $10,000 in the USA and €10,000 in the EU. As stated on the CBP website, if a family traveling together attempts to enter or leave the country with more than $10,000, it must complete a “Report of International Transportation of Currency and Monetary Instruments FinCEN 105.”
The reason for the declaration is so Customs and Border Protection can check the source of the funds to ensure due taxes have been paid and that they are not the proceeds of crime. As neither Kazazi or Nwaorie notified CPB that they were traveling with more than $10,000 their funds were seized and their attorneys are now trying to argue that they were not aware of the law.
Traveling with more than $10,000, even if the correct paperwork has been provided, is not recommended for security reasons. Many airports have dogs that can sniff out travelers carrying large amounts of cash. Albania and Nigeria are not as pro crypto as some countries, but Kazazi and Nwaorie should have considered moving their funds from the USA with bitcoin or ether.
Financial analyst, smartphone app designer, technical writer, and crypto enthusiast. Blockchain verified graduate of MOOC 9, DFIN-511: Introduction to Digital Currencies, run by the University of Nicosia.