Mainland Chinese travellers are smuggling millions of dollars in undeclared cash into Canada via Vancouver, which tops a new list of the nation's airports in seizures of illicit funds.
In June last year, a mainland traveller was caught carrying undeclared cash worth C$177,495 (HK$1.34 million), according to a freedom of information report requested by the Vancouver Sun.
The currency used was not reported, but in Chinese 100 yuan notes, the haul would have weighed about 10kg. Seizures of illicit Chinese currency outstripped those of Canadian dollars by five to one at Vancouver's International Airport, and two thirds of all smuggling attempts were made by mainland Chinese.
The average value of the 592 seizures from mainland Chinese from April 2011 to June last year, the latest data available, was C$16,400, for a total of C$9.7 million, the paper reported on Monday. Hong Kong people were the third-biggest cash smugglers at Vancouver's airport, behind returning Canadians.
In most cases, a fine of up to C$2,500 is issued and the seized cash is returned. The seizure is then reported to the Canadian Ministry of Finance, but not to any foreign authorities. Chinese rules prevent the transfer of more than US$50,000 out of the country per year. There are no Canadian limits on cash that can be brought in, but all amounts over C$10,000 must be declared.
Although Toronto's Pearson airport hosts about twice as many passengers as Vancouver's, seizures from Chinese travellers in the same period hit C$1.4 million.
Despite Beijing's rules on foreign exchange, Chinese buyers are a driving force behind Vancouver's sky-high property prices, which are the second-least affordable in the world, behind Hong Kong's, according to Demographia’s* study of 378 cities around the world in nine major markets.
Although no official statistics are recorded on the number of foreign buyers, a study by the Landcor group found that buyers with mainland Chinese-style names accounted for 74 per cent (122 out of 164) of all purchases of Vancouver homes worth C$3 million or more in 2010.
[*Update: This story has been updated to include a link to the latest Demographia study and to describe its scope]