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Crime in Hong Kong

Dogs trained in Britain to help Hong Kong customs officials sniff out dirty cash being funnelled through the city

New law comes into force on July 16 requiring sums of cash greater than HK$120,000 to be declared

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 10:32pm

Four dogs trained in Britain are ready to help sniff out dirty money entering Hong Kong as a new law comes into force requiring sums of cash greater than HK$120,000 (US$15,290) to be declared.

The Labradors, which cost HK$140,000 each, will be located at different border points, particularly those considered high risk such as Hong Kong International Airport.

Passengers, including local residents, carrying a large quantity of currency or bearer negotiable instruments arriving in Hong Kong via one of the city’s 13 control points must make a written declaration to customs through the red channel.

Louise Ho Pui-shan, assistant commissioner at the customs department, said on Thursday the dogs would stop passengers if they caught a whiff of suspicious amounts of money.

Ho added the whole process would take only two to three minutes.

Under the new law – which was passed by the Legislative Council in June last year to prevent criminal proceeds and terrorist funds being funnelled through Hong Kong – departing passengers would not be required to make any declarations, unless intercepted by a customs official.

“We have struck a balance between efficiency of enforcement, demand and the effect on passengers,” Ho said.

The department has strengthened staffing at control points to exercise the new regime, while cash-counting machines would also be added.

Sniffer dogs are commonly deployed at control points in many countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Britain.

Failure to declare large sums of money could lead to criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of HK$500,000.

Ho said first-time offenders, who could prove they were ignorant of the new law, would be fined HK$2,000 at the control point.

A three-month transition period would be granted after the new declaration system was launched. During this period, first-time offenders would be granted a written warning instead, Ho added, but the new regime would be enforced rigorously.

Since 1991, Hong Kong has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force, a body that sets international standards on anti-money-laundering measures and curbs on terrorist financing.

The body developed 40 recommendations and specially required member jurisdictions to establish by statue a declaration system to block the cross-boundary transport of hard currency.

The new law does not cover precious metals or stones, transiting passengers and transshipments.

Currently there is no limit on the amount of hard cash travellers can bring in.