Airport customs seize €1m a year suspected to be proceeds of crime

More than half the €9.5m in cash confiscated in the past decade subject to appeal

People carrying €10,000 or more in cash through an Irish airport must make a declaration to customs. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/ The Irish Times

People carrying €10,000 or more in cash through an Irish airport must make a declaration to customs. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/ The Irish Times

 

An average of €1 million in cash that is suspected to be the proceeds of crime has been seized in each of the last 10 years by customs officials at Dublin Airport, the Minister for Finance has said.

More than €1 million of the €9.58 million total confiscated since 2009 has been returned after those involved lodged appeals. Some €5.7 million is the subject of ongoing appeals.

The figures were provided by Paschal Donohoe in response to a written parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.

Ms Murphy said the amount seized “may well only be a fraction of the amounts going through airports but it gives us some sort of idea of the kind of money that can be found”.

People carrying €10,000 or more in cash through an Irish airport must make a declaration to customs. Failure to make a declaration, or making an incorrect or incomplete declaration, is an offence which can result in prosecution and a fine of up to €5,000.

A customs officer may search for and seize cash being brought in or out of the State if the amount is €1,000 or more, or if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect the money represents the proceeds of crime, or is intended for use in criminal conduct.

Figures supplied by the Minister show that a quarter (80) of the 324 Revenue enforcement officers across the State are based at Dublin Airport. There are 58 in Munster, 29 in Connacht/Ulster and 36 in the Leinster area excluding Dublin.

Brexit

Some 600 additional Revenue officials are being recruited for Irish ports and airports to deal with the impact of Brexit.

Ms Murphy said the figures raised questions about security and customs at smaller airports and ports and whether these had adequate cover.

She said the figures suggest “customs and security officers have been effective” and she asked that “if there were more, would they be even more effective?”

The largest amount of cash – more than €1.75 million – was seized in 2015 at the airport, with €121,461 returned on appeal during that year. The second highest year for seizures was 2013 when Revenue confiscated €1.23 million and gave back €107,111 after successful appeals.

Ms Murphy said “people are used to seeing bags and cases being checked and there is an expectation that drugs might be seized but I don’t think there’s an expectation of that amount of money being discovered”.

She said she was not surprised that appeals were lodged in relation to many of the sums seized.