POLICE today carried out a search operation at Edinburgh Airport with sniffer dogs deployed to track down criminals smuggling cash abroad.
The operation by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) saw specially trained dogs check passengers in the airport’s departure area as they prepared to take flights from 6am today.
The crackdown was mounted in a bid to detect money being taken out of Scotland to avoid tax, or to be hidden in foreign bank accounts.
Around 1800 passengers departing on international flights between 4am and 8am today were checked for cash.
A Lithuanian man flying out to Kaunis was stopped after a dog detected money in his jacket. The man was found to be carrying £2000 and interviewed by officials, but was released after officials determined he was taking the money back to his homeland after working in the UK.
Passengers departing on flights to Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Tenerife, Krakow, Prague, Alicante, Budapest, New York and Copenhagen were searched as part of the operation.
Security personnel, assisted by officers from Lothian and Borders Police, separated passengers leaving on domestic and international flights into sections, with the dogs – a yellow labrador called Marley and a springer spaniel called Roddy – checking the bags and clothing of anyone going abroad.
UKBA officers also checked domestic passengers using a profiling system to identify potential smugglers to be checked by the animals and their handlers for money.
A number of passengers were also stopped with small amounts of cash notes before being allowed to proceed. Colin Fraser, senior officer at UKBA, pledged that the cash spot-checks would be carried out on a “very regular” basis at the airport to snare criminals.
He added that locations such as Dubai and mainland Spain were popular with criminals taking money abroad.
As well as depositing cash in foreign accounts, criminals also take money abroad to buy drugs or cigarettes to be smuggled back into Britain.
He said: “Our operations help ensure that money made from criminality is stopped from being hidden in bank accounts or other assets overseas, and prevent the theft of money from the public purse through unpaid tax.
“We are working with partners including the police and using specialist teams and detection techniques to stop people from using Scotland to move criminal money around, as well as to secure the border against drugs, tobacco, firearms and animal products. Our aim is to make sure genuine travellers are not inconvenienced, but anyone thinking of trying to move criminal cash around should think again.”
UKBA officers have powers to check for ill-gotten cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and can search anyone where there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect they are carrying more than £1000 intended for “use in unlawful conduct”.
The cash can be detained for an initial period of 48 hours without judicial authority. Sheriffs can grant confiscation orders totalling up to two years while the holder has an opportunity to prove to the court that the cash was lawfully obtained.
In 2010-11, UKBA dogs detected almost £10 million, mostly in UK pounds, US dollars and euros, as well as more than 2000kg of class A and B drugs, and more than 16m cigarettes at British airports.