If you are a Canadian citizen or Canadian resident and have been lucky in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Paradise Island, Macau or other gambling destinations, be prepared to be asked questions by the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) when you return to Canada with your winnings. The CBSA sees a large amount of money and often thinks the worst about the person.The CBSA has stepped up seizures of currency in the last two years.
First and foremost, if you return to Canada with currency and/or financial instruments in excess of $CDN 10,000, you MUST report the currency/financial instruments to the CBSA. If you do not report the currency and financial instruments, the entire amount may be seized and kept as forfeit (yes, the Government of Canada can take the money and not give it back to you). The CBSA has discretion to levy a fine in the amount of $250 (for first failure to declare funds determined to be from legitimate sources AND the funds are not concealed AND you are truthful to the CBSA) or $2500 (for a second failure to declare funds or if you concealed the funds or you are not truthful to the CBSA) or $5,000 (for a third failure to declare funds or if you concealed the funds or you are not truthful to the CBSA) or the entire amount is seized. So, it is better to declare the money een though this means you must visit wit the CBSA to compete paperwork.
That being said, the CBSA may always seized the funds (reported or not) if the CBSA officer is of the view that the funds are not from legitimate sources. What we are seeing is that the CBSA seizes gambling winnings if it cannot be shown at the time of importation that the winnings are legitimate. In some cases, the CBSA gives the traveler a hard time and can make very snide remarks. The CBSA is testing your story (which should be truthful – if you won money in Las Vegas, tell the CBSA). The problem is that many travelers do not have sufficient paperwork from the casino when they return to Canada becasue they did not know it was important – they know they won the money at a legal premises.
If the CBSA seizes currency and financial instruments, you can seek a review of that decision within 90 days of the seizure. We have successfully demonstrated that gambling winnings are from legitimate sources (e.g., the funds were paid by a casino) and the CBSA returned the funds. Sometimes, it is necessary to show that the original monies taken by the traveler on the gambling holiday were from legitimate sources (e.g., taken from a bank account). Sometimes it is necessary to show the funds in the bank account were from legitimate sources (e.g., a paycheck by a Canadian employer). Each case is different as to what evidence will be required to show that finds are from a legitimate source. What is important to know is that the Recourse Directorate (not the BSA officer at the border) reviews the file and may determine that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate the currency/financial instruments are not proceeds of crime.
The CBSA often seizes NEXUS cards when seizing unreported currency. There is a separate process to seek a review of a NEXUS Card cancellation/revocation. Please see How Can I Get My NEXUS Card Back When It IS Confiscated/Cancelled By the CBSA?
If you require assistance from a lawyer because the NEXUS privileges are important to you, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168. More information about NEXUS confiscations and appeals is posted on the LexSage website.