Federal Court upholds seizure of 38,500 dollars at airport

Man unable to show legitimate origin of money he was carrying; failed to meet legal onus

Federal Court upholds seizure of 38,500 dollars at airport

Canada’s Federal Court has dismissed the application of a man who allegedly failed to report, as required by law, the exportation of currency of a value equal to or greater than the prescribed amount.

Section 12(1) of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act provided this reporting requirement, while the Cross-border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations, SOR/2002-412, set the prescribed amount at $10,000.

In February 2021, the applicant was boarding a flight to Guyana at Toronto Pearson International Airport. He revealed, in response to questioning, that he possessed $38,500 in cash. He also had $661, US$179, 15,000 Guyana dollars, and 105 Trinidad and Tobago dollars in his wallet or in envelopes. He did not report these currencies to customs before departure.

An officer of the Canada Border Services Agency seized the $38,500 as forfeit based on the applicant’s failure to report it under s. 12(1). The officer found that the applicant failed to show a clear legitimate source of the money.

The applicant asked the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness to review the officer’s enforcement action. He alleged that part of the seized money came from revenue from his construction business.

A delegate of the public safety minister issued a decision maintaining the enforcement action based on the failure to report. He made the following findings:

  • The seized currency should be held as forfeit under s. 29 of the Act
  • The applicant failed to demonstrate that the seized $38,500 came from a legitimate source
  • The applicant gave no documentation confirming the existence of his construction business or of its legitimate operation
  • The applicant’s bank information showed money flowing in and out of his account but, with few exceptions, did not provide the sources of the e-transfer deposits
  • The applicant identified a deposit corresponding to an $14,180 insurance payment for a stolen work truck but failed to point to a subsequent withdrawal linking the insurance payout to the seized currency

Decision reasonable: Federal Court

In Evans v. Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2022 FC 1516, the Federal Court dismissed the judicial review application.

First, the court found the decision reasonable, transparent, intelligible, and offering justification for its findings. The reasons were adequate since they stated that the applicant had the onus, summarized and addressed the applicant’s evidence, and explained why the evidence was insufficient, the court held.

The decision reasonably concluded that the applicant’s evidence failed to show a legitimate origin or a link between the seized currency and the income in the applicant’s bank or the insurance payment, the court said.

Second, the court saw no breach of procedural fairness. The court noted that a notice of circumstances of seizure, sent on Feb. 19, 2021, informed the applicant that he had the onus to show the legitimate origin of the seized currency. The notice stated the evidence that the applicant needed to produce and the deficiencies in the evidence so far provided.

Thus, the applicant knew the case that he had to meet and took advantage of the opportunity to respond by submitting further documents, the court said. The minister considered all the documentation that the applicant offered, the court added.

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