This blog posting represents the views of the author, David Fosberry. Those opinions may change over time. They do not constitute an expert legal or financial opinion.

If you have comments on this blog posting, please email me .

The Opinion Blog is organised by threads, so each post is identified by a thread number ("Major" index) and a post number ("Minor" index). If you want to view the index of blogs, click here to download it as an Excel spreadsheet.

Click here to see the whole Opinion Blog.

To view, save, share or refer to a particular blog post, use the link in that post (below/right, where it says "Show only this post").

These Customs Agents Are Thieves!

Posted on 5th June 2018

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread.

This story on the Washington Post is shocking.

Rustem Kazazi, a US citizen, was on his way to his country of birth, Albania, hoping to invest his life savings ($58,000) in a holiday home. He took the money with him in cash, because of concerns about high levels of crime in Albania. According to the Washington Post: "On Oct. 24, Kazazi arrived at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport [Ohio]to begin the first leg of his journey, which would take him to Newark to connect with an international flight. He carried the cash in three counted and labeled bundles in his carry-on bag, he said, along with receipts from recent bank withdrawals and documentation pertaining to his family's property in Tirana, the Albanian capital". He intended to file papers about the cash he was taking out of the USA, in Newark (the airport from which he was to leave the USA), in full compliance with the law.

In short, Mr. Kazazi did nothing wrong (apart from not being very good in English, when questioned by the customs agents questioned him): “They asked me some questions, which I could not understand as they spoke too quickly... I asked them for an interpreter and asked to call my family, but they denied my request”. Nevertheless, his cash was confiscated through a "process known as civil asset forfeiture, a law enforcement technique that allows authorities to take cash and property from people who are never convicted or even charged with a crime". In 2017, federal authorities seized assets worth more than $2 billion through such seizures.

The initial receipt that the customs agents gave Mr. Kazazi at the airport did no specify the value of the cash they confiscated. More than a month later, another receipt arrived, but the sum it listed was $770 less than the sum taken. Since the cash was all in $100 bills, it is impossible for the total to be $57,330.

So now, understandably Mr. Kazazi is suing to get his money back.

I think that I would probably take a different approach. This seems to be a clear and simple case of theft. The money was taken without any legal justification, as proven by the absence of any charges against Mr. Kazazi, and the amount on the receipt does not match the sum confiscated. I make that two separate counts of theft. Criminal charges should be brought.

In the primary case of the confiscation, the agents were either acting unofficially, or they were acting under the authority of the federal government. I therefore believe that the agents should be charged individually, and the federal government should also be charged. Regarding the issue of the mismatching amounts, the agents seem to be acting privately, and should be charged as such.

This kind of abuse of the law needs to be stamped out, hard.