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Singapore

87 travelers detained at Changi Airport for not declaring cash over $20,000 and evading taxes

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  • Singapore authorities are rigorously enforcing cash declaration requirements to combat money laundering and tax evasion.
  • Travelers caught with undeclared cash exceeding $20,000 face fines up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to three years, or both.
  • From May 13, 2024, travelers must submit cash declarations electronically, simplifying the process and ensuring compliance.

In a significant enforcement operation at Changi Airport, 87 travelers were apprehended for failing to declare cash amounts exceeding $20,000, a requirement under Singapore's stringent financial regulations. This multi-agency operation, involving the Singapore Police Force, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), and Singapore Customs, underscores the nation's robust stance against money laundering and tax evasion.

The operation, which spanned across all four terminals of Changi Airport, identified over 10,000 travelers for checks. The authorities scanned and searched more than 18,000 pieces of luggage and hand-carry bags, leading to the discovery of undeclared cash in various currencies. The travelers caught in this operation now face severe penalties, including fines up to $50,000, imprisonment for up to three years, or both, as stipulated by Singapore law.

One notable case involved a Malaysian man, Bryan Woo Kah Hou, who was fined $30,000 for under-declaring the cash he brought into Singapore. Woo, a cash courier for a money changer in Sarawak, Malaysia, carried nearly $2 million into Singapore but declared only about $700,000. His actions were deemed a serious violation of the reporting regime, which aims to combat money laundering and ensure financial transparency.

The ICA has emphasized the importance of declaring physical currency and bearer negotiable instruments exceeding $20,000. This requirement is part of Singapore's efforts to prevent illegal financial activities and maintain the integrity of its financial system. The authorities have also introduced an online declaration system to simplify the process for travelers. From May 13, 2024, travelers entering or leaving Singapore with more than $20,000 in cash must submit their declarations electronically via the MyICA mobile application or the ICA website.

The crackdown at Changi Airport is not an isolated incident. Similar operations have been conducted at other entry points, including the Woodlands Checkpoint and the Singapore Cruise Centre. In one instance, two Indonesian women were stopped at the Singapore Cruise Centre with over $35,600 in undeclared cash. The money, wrapped in plastic bags and hidden in suitcases, was discovered during an X-ray scan of their baggage.

These enforcement actions highlight the critical role of customs and immigration authorities in safeguarding Singapore's borders against financial crimes. The ICA has reiterated that all travelers must comply with the cash declaration requirements to avoid hefty penalties and legal repercussions. The agency also encourages travelers to make advance declarations and payments for dutiable or GST goods up to three days before their arrival in Singapore.

The recent operation at Changi Airport serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to Singapore's financial regulations. The authorities' unwavering commitment to enforcing these rules ensures that the nation remains a secure and transparent financial hub. Travelers are urged to familiarize themselves with the declaration requirements and comply fully to avoid severe penalties.

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