Cablegate: Helping Afghans Check for Undisclosed Cash Movements At
DE RUEHBUL #3504/01 3071302
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031302Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2712
INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 2012
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 8056
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 3089
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 7416
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 7097
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC 0930
RHMFISS/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC 0051
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KABUL 003504
DEPT FOR S/SRAP, SCA/A, AND EEB
TREASURY FOR M. KAPLAN, A. WELLER, AND J. CASAL
DHS FOR IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT - OPERATIONS
DHS FOR CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION - INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN SNAR ETRD KCRM KCOR PGOV AF
SUBJECT: HELPING AFGHANS CHECK FOR UNDISCLOSED CASH MOVEMENTS AT
KABUL'S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT -- OPERATION FLY AWAY I
1. (SBU) Summary: On October 25 and 26, an Embassy Kabul
interagency team worked with Afghan authorities to conduct an
information gathering operation at Kabul International Airport,
examining whether both arriving and departing passengers properly
document currency they are bringing into or out of the country. The
operation also provided a force multiplier for Afghan customs during
peak hours and contributed to a more robust revenue collection
environment. Concerns identified out of the exercise include
failure to screen VIPs and their luggage adequately, lack of control
over access to the inbound customs areas, lack of adequate ramp
access control, and no examination of handheld personal property
carried by airline employees leaving the ramp through the customs
area. The following are among the recommendations emerging from the
exercise: better control sheets and standard operating practices to
verify the amounts of currency carried by travelers and to seize the
money if warranted, improved measures to facilitate customs
examination and the collection of any duties owed, tighter screening
of VIPs and their luggage, and strengthened procedures governing
access to the ramp and other airport facilities. To help implement
the recommendations, U.S. BMTF will deploy two Customs and Border
Police monitors at the airport within the next 30 days. End
2. (SBU) On October 25 and 26, a team comprised of Afghan Customs
Department (ACD) and Afghan Border Police (ABP)officers, with
support from the U.S. Border Management Task Force, Treasury, Drug
Enforcement Administration, the UK Serious Organized Crime Agency
(SOCA), and the Transportation Security Agency, conducted an
information gathering operation -- "Operation Fly Away" -- at Kabul
International Airport. The operation focused on ensuring both
arriving and departing passengers had completed all currency
declaration forms. The operation also identified several important
gaps in the areas of customs and general airport security.
3. (SBU) Afghan officials conducting the operation identified two
money couriers with undeclared currency leaving Afghanistan. The
two turned out to be from the Russian Embassy in Kabul and were
traveling with $50,000 and $15,000 respectively. When asked by the
Afghan Customs Department to complete a currency declaration, the
travelers asked someone from the Russian Embassy to come and help
complete the form. The Embassy sent someone to help the two staff
members. Both passengers stated they were unaware of the
requirement to declare money coming or going from Afghanistan.
Under Afghan law, anyone carrying one million Afghani ($20,000) must
declare the cash to Afghan Customs authorities upon departure or
arrival (Note: the amount is $10,000 in the U.S.). There was no
protest at the airport by the Russians of their treatment by the
4. (SBU) No passengers were detected bringing money into
Afghanistan during the operation. However, several passengers did
fail to declare goods and Afghan Customs officials had them pay the
5. (SBU) In addition to the identified couriers, the operation
revealed several procedural gaps:
-- When passengers arrive into or depart from Kabul they are not
asked if they are carrying more than one million Afghani (or the
-- The Currency Declaration forms are not numbered/sequenced.
-- There are problems with the translations the Currency Declaration
forms and an inadequate number of forms are available at the
-- Neither the inbound nor the outbound area of the terminal has a
private room to count money for verification purposes.
-- Standard procedures for fund verification are not in place, nor
are there the money counting machines, scales, or other items
necessary to routinely enforce the law.
THE NEED TO IMPROVE CUSTOMS INSPECTION AND COLLECTION
6. (SBU) The operation also uncovered several serious gaps in how
customs duties are assessed, collected, and catalogued. These gaps
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-- Afghan officers rely heavily on the x-ray machine to do all
examinations. There are also too many people at the x-ray machine.
-- There are no signs posted showing what the duty rates are and
what each Afghan citizen is allowed to bring into the country. The
staff lacks a Standard Operating Procedure for collecting duties
owed and supervisors rarely engage employees.
-- The customs officers do not itemize goods for duty collection.
-- The "green" and "red" zones are reversed and do not operate
-- Customs officers do not engage with the traveling public.
-- There is insufficient supervision of customs officials'
AIRPORT SECURITY CONCERNS
7. (SBU) Also during the operation, participants observed a number
of serious security concerns at the airport. These security
concerns affect other aspects of airport operation and should be
remedied. Specific security concerns include:
-- VIPs are not thoroughly screened and are allowed to bypass
-- VIPs do not need to be present to claim their baggage and
frequently utilize a third party to introduce and/or collect
-- Arriving and departing conveyances are not properly screened for
-- Lack of control over who enters the Passport Control Area.
-- Lack of control over who enters the inbound customs area where
baggage is collected.
-- Passengers are allowed to leave the customs area and re-enter
with their hand luggage.
-- No examination of handheld personal property of airline employees
leaving the ramp through the customs area.
-- Ramp access is not controlled; there is no valid security
presence on the ramp. Vehicles come and go on the ramp without
adequate controls. No foreign object detection is done on the
vehicles entering the ramp area.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE AIRPORT OPERATIONS
8. (SBU) After the operation concluded, the Border Management Task
Force, in consultation with other participating agencies, put
forward several recommendations to improve procedures at Kabul
a) Enhancing cash declaration compliance
-- Control sheets and Standard Operating Procedures should be
developed for the Afghan Customs Department for the verification of
currency entering/leaving and the seizure of money.
-- All passengers should be asked if they are carrying more than one
million Afghanis (or equivalent in negotiable instruments) and, if
the answer is yes, complete a currency declaration form. If the
person cannot read or write, someone at the airport should be
available to assist.
-- The Currency Declaration Form should be revised, translation
problems corrected, and the forms numbered sequentially. The forms
should also be separately available in triplicate, vice bound in
books as they are now.
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-- An audio/video message should be made and broadcast in the
airport for passengers describing the cash declaration laws (in
Pashtu, Dari, and English).
-- Two rooms should be identified for verifying currency (one in the
inbound and as well as one in the outbound area). These rooms
should be equipped with an adequate number of machines to count
-- An Afghan Customs Department officer and an Afghan Border Police
officer should be stationed at the final search point prior to
entering the outbound lounge.
b) Increasing compliance with Afghan customs regulations
-- Establish clear green and red zones.
-- A Standard Operating Procedure must be written for customs duty
collection, along with one for compliance and enforcement.
-- Reasonable goals need to be established for the collection of
customs revenues at the airport.
-- All VIPs must be present for baggage collection and customs
-- Only Afghan Customs and Border Police should be allowed behind
the x-ray machine.
-- Other law enforcement must submit a request and plan in order to
be in the customs area.
-- An Afghan Border Police officer should be placed at all entrances
of the customs area to ensure only authorized personnel have
-- The Afghan Customs Supervisor should be required to sign off on
all duty collection forms.
-- Central Bank personnel should be provided space in the customs
area to take physical possession of duty payments.
-- No travel expeditors should be allowed in customs area.
-- No airline personnel other than those with flights are allowed in
the customs area.
c) Tightening security procedures at KIA
-- Standard Operating Procedures for security should be written and
discussed with staff.
-- An Airport Security Taskforce should be established, led by the
authority responsible for coordinating implementation of security
-- A new VIP process should be developed to serve as interim
operating procedures and incorporated into the airport security
-- A formal checkpoint to control passenger and employee access to
the new airport terminal is necessary.
-- A new badge access system should be implemented. The system
should include a mechanism for temporary workers as well. An
interagency committee of Afghan law enforcement/transportation
officials should issue the badges. A color-coding method should be
used to delineate access to various parts of the airport.
-- The ABP should deploy necessary physical security to control the
ramp. Global Security (a private contractor providing security at
the airport) could help provide an additional layer of security for
the building's interior.
-- Procedures are needed for authorized agencies requiring access to
airport security areas.
-- A closed circuit TV (CCTV) system should be installed and
appropriate secure location in the airport identified where the CCTV
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can be monitored and security tapes stored. This location will also
require communication upgrades to ensure connectivity with
appropriate law enforcement and airport officials. Established
operating procedures for ABP personnel and training in those
procedures should be established.
WAY AHEAD - OPERATION FLY AWAY II
9. (SBU) Moving forward, plans are underway for Operation Fly Away
II, incorporating the DHS ICE program "Hands Across the World."
Doing so will require the government of the UAE to participate along
with DHS/ICE personnel assigned to Dubai. All participating
agencies in Operation Fly Away I will be included the next
10. (SBU) In a concerted effort to implement the recommendations
outlined above, BMTF will deploy two Customs and Border police
mentors at the airport within the next 30 days.