Tuesday, March 6, 2012


The last time I returned to the United States from Dubai, they were waiting for me at Customs; apparently my profile had preceded me. Of course, once the agents learnt that I had returned from giving a lecture instructing bankers on how to identify money launderers, I was passed through without a search.

This week, lost in the shuffle amidst a huge criminal indictment of American defense contractors working in Iraq and Jordan, was the story of an employee of the company who had been arrested on arrival in America when customs officers found $150,000 secreted inside his possessions. That's the good news; the bad news is that this was not his first bulk cash smuggling operation; he had previously brought in a total of $800,000, according to the reports.

American contractors abroad, employees at private military companies providing security overseas, and assorted expatriates returning to CONUS* are all potential bulk cash smugglers. Why ? Payments for services rendered in cash, tempting illicit business "opportunities," and their extended presence in developing, corrupt, countries, where bribes & kickbacks paid out or accepted are the rule, all operate to raise the risk levels on these individuals. So, why on earth wasn't this contractor targeted by US law enforcement after the first couple of trips ? We cannot say, but should not such returnees be preselected, much as I have been, due to a high level of risk for smuggling of cash, financial instruments, or other items of high value ?

* Abbreviation for the Continental United States, which excludes Hawaii & Alaska.  

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