CUSTOMS chiefs are preparing strict guidelines for new laws which give officers power to seize cash at border crossings from people suspected of drug trafficking. Only officers above the rank of superintendent will be allowed to approve the seizures involving cash over $125,000. The guidelines aim to defuse concern that many travellers will be stopped on a whim at checkpoints and have cash confiscated under a system with little accountability. Customs staff say they will only swoop after specific information, rarely taking action against someone vaguely suspected of money-laundering. The acting Chief of the Customs Drug Investigation Bureau, Superintendent Wong On-man, said a team of financial experts was responsible for gleaning information on suspects' movements. 'We have quite a deal of intelligence on this aspect, money laundering - the taking of money in and out of Hong Kong,' he said. 'But just because we have this power, it does not necessarily mean we need any special training. 'We will have guidelines on what to do and how to exercise the power when officers come across these situations,' he said. The push to increase powers of Customs and police officers came from the Governor's March drug summit. The Legislative Council also approved the courts' right to confiscate seized assets from those charged with drug offences who had either died or absconded before trial. Under the new law, a suspect is deemed to have absconded if he has not been seen for six months after his case is listed by the courts. And under the cash seizure provisions, police can hold money for up to 10 days in importing cases - or seven days for cash people have tried to export - before they must apply to the courts. Mr Wong said customs and police had no right under the legislation to carry out indiscriminate searches. 'There has been some misunderstanding that, when we have the power, at the control point we will search everyone and if we find money on them we will seize it and detain them,' he said. 'This is not the case. Everything will be based on intelligence and investigation. 'Only when we have received information that suggests people may be carrying large sums of money out of Hong Kong will we take action. I think it will be very beneficial in attacking drug trafficking.' The strengthened powers are likely to add to the workload of the Joint Financial Investigation Group, the squad which comprises police and Customs officers with a charter of pursuing money laundering. It has been revealed the group is facing mounting problems in properly vetting all reports of suspicious monetary transfers.