Customs officers confiscated a foreign currency cheque worth €54 million on Friday after catching an Iranian man trying to smuggle it illegally into Germany at Dusseldorf airport. The man had hardly bothered to hide his loot, which was stashed in the side pocket of his hand luggage.
Customs officials randomly checked the 59-year-old's bag as he got off a flight from Turkey which landed at Dusseldorf airport in western Germany. The man had stopped over in Turkey on his way to Germany from Iran. When asked how much money he was carrying, the man declared that he was carrying less than €10,000 in cash.
Yet German officials found a cheque made by the Venezuelan state-owned bank, Banco de Venezuela, made out for 300 million Venezuelan bolívares - about €54 million - in the side pocket of his hand luggage. The man had indeed only been carrying €5,000 in cash in various currencies, but passengers entering the EU are required to declare any cash or assets - including securities such as cheques, travellers cheques, savings certificates, shares - worth more than €10,000.
As the man was unable to tell the officials anything about the cheque, the intended recipient or the reason for money being transferred, customs officials said they had confiscated the document due to suspicion of money-laundering. The unnamed Iranian traveller will now face charges of having committed an administrative offence - of not declaring assets over €10,000 and if he is found guilty could be fined up to €1 million.