Customs ‘see and hear it all’ from smugglers

Hiding cash on their wives’ bodies and concocting incredible, and often multiple, claims about the origins of the money are among the tactics used by people smuggling proceeds of crime out of the country.

Customs officers have seen it all, but their jobs are made very difficult by the fact that more often than not the people doing the smuggling are “complete unknowns”.

Of the 33 cases in 2015, where a total of €1.157m was forfeited by the State, the case of Andrei Piatlitski is one of the more unusual.

The Belarus-born Irish national was stopped at Dublin Airport on December 23, 2012. He was on the way to board a flight to Lithuania with his wife, when security at Dublin Airport detected something unusual.

His wife had €55,000 in cash “concealed around her upper body”. This unusual find prompted a further search of the couple and some €69,800 was found in Mr Piatlitski’s holdall.

He told Customs that he saved the €124,800 from his employment “in a scrap metal company” during his 10 years working here.

The cash was seized and an investigation was conducted by Revenue’s Investigations and Prosecutions Division, who presented a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The DPP ordered forfeiture proceedings and the cash was handed over to the State by the court on May 20, 2015.

In another case, in June 2014, €10,000 was found on Kim Louise Hall who was about to board a flight to Amsterdam..

Ms Hall was travelling with her fiancé Richard Harris. He told Customs officers he was travelling alone and only had €1,200 on him.

He proceeded through the boarding gate “without acknowledging Ms Hall” only to return some time later claiming the cash was partially his.

The cash was handed over to the State on March 9, 2015.

In one of a number of cases involving Chinese nationals finalised last year, Chiyu Chen and Ying Chen were stopped at Dublin Airport on October 23, 2012, about to fly to Amsterdam and on to China.

Officers found €32,290 concealed “in a sophisticated manner” within household and personal hygiene items in the check-in luggage.

They claimed the cash was from savings and was to fund children’s education in China.

Officers showed the court this did not stand up to scrutiny and that cash was being exported to avoid paying outstanding taxes, and was forfeited on December 4, 2015.

In another case, Irishman Karl Richter had arrived on a flight from Alicante, Spain, on July 22, 2014, and stayed overnight in Dublin Airport.

When he attempted to get the flight back the next day, he was stopped and had €9,900 on him.

He claimed his cousin had “dropped” the cash to him at the airport to “purchase a vehicle” back in Spain. He later claimed it was a gift from another person. The court forfeited the cash.

Andrew Keyes, the head of Customs Cash Investigation Unit, said Customs officers have heard and seen it all.

In one case last year, involving a Chinese person, cash was rolled up in tampon cartridges and hidden inside a picture frame.

He said: “It’s very easy to stop a member of a gang or someone with a string of convictions. These are people with no criminal convictions and no great known associations.

“They are often someone who has become indebted or a family member has.”

“You can see the desperation to get the money back, it’s tragic. They are people in trouble. More often, though, they are people doing it for a few quid.

“Either way, we simply have to do our job.”


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