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Cash Seizures: What to Do?

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Seizures of cash have been increasing in Canada, usually at major airports, where Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) agents are tasked with policing and enforcing Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (the “Money Laundering Act” or the “MLA” for short).

Unfortunately, more often than not, the cash seems to be seized from unsuspecting travellers with good intentions, who are not involved in criminal activities but are simply unaware of their legal obligation to declare the proper amounts of cash they are traveling with when crossing international borders.

Background

Since the MLA was enacted, the CBSA (and other law enforcement agencies like the RCMP and OPP) have been busy seizing large cash amounts believed to be proceeds of crime. This can extend to the seizure of declared and undeclared cash at border crossings, where travellers are under an obligation to declare amounts exceeding CAD $10,000. This obligation can extend beyond cash, and will include monetary instruments (like bonds, notes, etc.). The CAD $10,000 threshold is not limited to Canadian dollars either, but rather the TOTAL value of what you are carrying (including the CAD value of all other currencies).

The requirement to report includes ALL travellers, whether by air, land or sea, and includes travellers LEAVING Canada. For example, travellers are generally expected to attend at the CBSA offices in the airport or border crossing to complete an E667 "Cross-Border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report – General" prior to crossing the border with more than CAD $10,000.

Can I appeal a Cash Seizure?

Fortunately, there are legal appeal mechanisms in the MLA that allow for the appeal of a seizure of cash, but that requires the filing of a formal appeal with the CBSA Recourse Directorate (where the seizure has been made by CBSA). There is also generally a ninety (90) day time limit for filing the appeal.

Legal assistance is generally recommended in these situations, as travellers who find themselves in this unfortunate position will generally have only one opportunity to make their case to the CBSA, and in virtually all of these situations, CBSA may / will be approaching the situation from the perspective that the traveller is involved in criminal activities.

Interests in Cash Seized from Someone Else

What happens if cash owned by another person is seized at the border? Luckily, the MLA also has special provisions that allow a third-party (i.e., a person with interests in that cash seized) to claim an interest as owner or trustee, and to seek an independent review of the seizure. Similar time frames exist, and applications must be made (to the Federal Court) in a particular form. This process will also generally require a lawyer, and neither the Minister of Public Safety nor CBSA officials have the authority to review or decide on these sorts of third party applications.

What if my NEXUS Card was also Seized?

It is common for NEXUS Cards to be seized, confiscated or revoked whenever there is an allegation by CBSA or US Border Protection (CBP) of a cross-border infraction. For more information on this, and possible appeal rights for seizures of NEXUS Cards please see here.

Do you require assistance in this area?  If so, please click here.

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