The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Further and Better Particulars

I am grateful for the thoughtful responses to the previous post about PoCA seizures. One point that I did not clarify is that the case quoted was against the UK Border Agency (which is what Customs is called this week).

Few of us will have any problem with a typical PoCA bust, where a drugs raid reveals £8000 in grubby readies in the attic; few of these seizures are contested, in my experience.

UKBA is different because very large sums are routinely carried through ports (£50,000 plus is by no means a huge seizure). Inflows can be worrying - is it terrorism money, or pump-priming for a big drug deal? As a rule, drugs come in and money goes out, but what do we make of the small-time shopkeeper who tries to fly to India with £30,000 of undeclared cash, or the UK-resident Iraqi community leader with £20,000 worth of mixed currencies that he claims to be taking to the families of his community?.

Some are lying: the cash may be the proceeds of tax evasion, or people-trafficking, or dozens of other practices. Some are telling the truth, and just want to get their savings to their families in some hell-hole such as Somalia that has no functioning government or banking system. All run the usual risk of carrying concealed cash, which is that even if the authorities don't get it the airport loaders might. One of the questions that is always asked is why the banking system was not utilised - a transfer through a UK bank is pretty cheap, and is without risk to the sender. This is where the language problem arises; the bilingual have no problem, but the sesquilingual will struggle.

A long step away from the major banks is the Hawala system of Islamic banking. This is based on trust and on the community and is used to transfer vast amounts every year. As I understand it, the person who has come to the UK from an Afghan village goes to a trusted person in his community, perhaps a small shopkeeper or travel agent, and gives him a few hundred pounds to send to his family. Things happen, and a respected person in that remote village hands over the cash with a very small deduction for fees.

Isn't it a humbling thought for a Westerner, by the way, that such a system can survive on trust?