People in and out of Hong Kong, including local residents, need to declare if they are carrying more than HK$120,000 (US$15,300) in cash, after a new law to tackle dirty money came into force Monday.
Under the new law, which was passed by Legco in June last year and aims to prevent criminal proceeds and terrorist funds from being funneled through Hong Kong, a traveler in possession of a large quantity of currency or bearer negotiable instruments (CBNIs) valued at more than HK$120,000 arriving in Hong Kong via one of the city’s 13 border control points must make a written declaration to customs.
These points are Lo Wu, Hung Hom Station, Man Kam To boundary, Sha Tau Kok boundary, Hong Kong-Macao Ferry Terminal, China Ferry Terminal, Lok Ma Chau boundary, Hong Kong International Airport, Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal, Shenzhen Bay Port Hong Kong port area, Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Ocean Terminal.
If a traveler arrives in Hong Kong via another route, or is about to leave the city, they must disclose if they are in possession of a large quantity of currency or bearer negotiable instruments.
For large sums of cash or such instruments imported or exported in a cargo consignment, an advance electronic declaration must be made to customs.
Failure to declare could lead to criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of HK$500,000.
The Hong Kong customs department has strengthened staffing at control points to exercise the new regime, while cash-counting machines would also be added.
The Labradors, which cost HK$140,000 each, are located at different border points, particularly those considered high risk such as Hong Kong International Airport, to help customs officials sniff out dirty cash.
Louise Ho Pui-shan, assistant commissioner at the customs department, said the dogs would stop passengers if they caught a whiff of suspicious amounts of money. The whole process would take only two to three minutes.
Ho said first-time offenders would be fined HK$2,000 at the control points.
During a three-month grace period that expires Oct. 15, first-time offenders will be granted a written warning instead, Ho added.
The new law does not cover precious metals or stones, transiting passengers or transshipments.
Since 1991, Hong Kong has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body that sets international standards on anti-money-laundering measures and curbs on terrorist financing.
The body developed 40 recommendations and specifically required member jurisdictions to establish by statute a declaration system to stymie the cross-boundary transport of hard currency.