Customs keep tab on illegal currency:
Public unaware of currency import and export laws
Customs Spokesman, Director Leslie Gamini
The Sri Lanka Customs is responsible for the important, transit and
export of goods in the country as well as the collection of import and
export duty. This includes the chief objectives of revenue collection,
trade facilitation, law enforcement and social protection.
A currency exchange worker
holds a handful of euro notes -Getty Images
Seizing prohibited items like raw and finished gold, dangerous
narcotics like Heroin, illicit cigarettes and prohibited plants and
extracts like Wallapatta and Red Sanders as stated in the Fauna and
Flora Act, the Sri Lanka Customs has earned a reputation in the past few
This could also be due to the growing trend of smuggling gold and
drugs that never seem to cease with the increasing number of detections
or surveillance. However, amidst these common smuggling trends,
officials have observed a new trend developing, which is to import and
export local and foreign currency beyond the approved limits.
Although many were nabbed for violating the import and export laws of
currency due to ignorance of the existing law, some seemed to engaged in
the illicit business being aware of the consequences. With a sum of
Rs.78.94 million worth of local and foreign currency being forfeited in
2013 only and around five such instances being thwarted up to now for
this year, the Customs will keep close tabs on this latest trend without
it getting out of hand. Most of the people arrested in connection with
carrying currency at the airport were found hiding them in their
attires, under false bottoms of baggages and sometimes in their person.
In none of these instances have the suspects declared the money they
were carrying to the Customs declaration points.
The latest incident reported on April 22 where three Sri Lankan women
returning from India were searched on suspicion and found importing a
large sum of local and foreign currency worth over Rs.8.8 million. The
suspects were residents of Kalmunai area were searched and stacks of
various bank notes hidden in their brassieres. Customs officials at the
Bandaranaike International Airport recovered US Dollars 61, 000, Euro 1,
200, Saudi Riyal 1, 405 and Sterling Pounds 348 from their possession.
Customs officers seize
It was learnt that these women were operating as carriers to certain
unknown parties. They get a small commission for carrying the money
secretly from one country to another.
Among such instances detected recently Customs officials came across
instances where individuals were found carrying amounts of money
concealed even below the allowed limits of the exchange laws. Having
questioned them as to why they carried legitimate amounts of money
concealed, they revealed that most people hardly knew about the import
and export limitations of local and foreign currency.
Customs Spokesman, Director Leslie Gamini told the Sunday Observer
that this had created a financially, unhealthy environment and unwanted
fear among the public who want to import large sums of money into the
country for various commercial and tourism purposes.
A fear among many people is that, if they declare the money they
bring they might have to pay a tax for it and to evade the tax payment
they don't declare the money they bring into the country. This is
baseless and by declaring the amount of money, the Customs does not
charge a single cent. The only thing is that for amounts above the
permissible limits should be declared upon importing or exporting.
Import and Export of local currency
According to laws of the Exchange Control Department followed by the
Customs, any person coming into the country or going out of Sri Lanka
could keep local currency amounting to Rs.20, 000 in his possession
Exporting of foreign currency
A person can take out legally acquired foreign currency in any form
up to US $ 10, 000 without declaring to Customs. However , if the total
in foreign currency notes exceeds US $ 5, 000 the entirety should be
declared to Customs.
The foreign currency retained in compliance with the regulations on
possession of foreign currency can be used for subsequent visits abroad
within the allowed period of retention.
Import of foreign currency
The law states that a person can bring any amount of foreign currency
in Travellers Cheques , Bank Drafts or Currency Notes. However if the
total sum of foreign currency exceeds US $ 15, 000 it should be declared
to the Customs. Also if a person wishes to take out foreign currency
more than US $ 5, 000 in notes the entirety must be declared.
Possession of foreign currency Any sum earned from employment,
profession, or business abroad and declare to Customs as given above
maybe retained in his or her possession for 90 days. Any sum obtained
from the bank , authorised travel agent or authorised money changer and
remained unused maybe retained in possession for 90 days. Any person
returned from travel abroad may retain up to US $ 2, 000 without any
According to the Customs Spokesman declaration of currency is
important as it helps to monitor how much money flows in and out of the
country in maintaining the economic standards. Also many unlawful
activities like money laundering, where illegally earned money converted
into white money and illegal or shadow money transferring schemes like
Undiyal and informal value transfer systems like Hawala, which is
popular among South East Asian and South Indian groups could be
It is anybody's wish to carry any amount of money ,but there is a
legal requirement to declare if one carries more than the amount an
individual is permitted to carry. Knowingly or unknowingly people are
hesitant to declare their money thinking it would cause unnecessary
hassle. But many people face unnecessary hassle at airports simply
because they chose not to declare their money. The Customs is trying its
level best to educate the public on this issue and avoid creating an
unnecessary phobia in carrying money from one country to another.