Starting from today (November 1), visitors entering Macau and carrying MOP120,000 (US$15,000) or more in cash – or the equivalent in other currencies – are obliged to report the fact to the local authorities.
The move, the government said, would help “combat money laundering and terrorist financing, in order to ensure the security and stability of Macau’s economic system”.
The introduction of a currency declaration requirement for all travellers to and from Macau had been approved by the city’s Legislative Assembly in late May.
Submitted declaration forms will be kept by customs for a total of five years. After that time, the declarations will be destroyed if no suspicion of wrongdoing has come to the attention of the authorities.
Those who fail to comply with the proposed reporting rules can incur fines ranging from MOP1,000 up to MOP500,000.
The declaration requirement also covers other “negotiable monetary instruments” aside from cash, such as traveller’s cheques, cheques, bank drafts, payment orders and promissory notes.
The legislation states border cash declarations are compulsory for people entering Macau. Those leaving Macau are only required to report whether they are carrying cash or other negotiable monetary instruments above the trigger amount if questioned on the topic by a Macau customs agent.
A recent focus for the Macau government has been tighter controls on the large volumes of money flowing through the city’s casinos via VIP gambling. Such play is typically funded by credit issued by government-licensed gaming promoters – commonly referred to as junkets. They also arrange – via agents and sub-agents – collections on player gambling losses.
Commenting on the new border currency declaration system in Macau when it was first proposed in December 2016, JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd said the measure was “really to adopt the international standard of anti-money laundering, [and] does not have anything to do with China’s capital control, nor does it target the gaming industry.”
Analysts DS Kim and Sean Zhuang noted at the time that “mainland Chinese can legally bring only RMB20,000 (US$3,016) per overseas trip in any case; hence, this US$15,000 limit is already five times higher than the legal limit for Chinese travellers.” In addition, VIP gamblers, “usually do not carry cash across the border” as they usually gamble on credit and other via other forms of finance provided by junket operators.
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DS Kim, Amanda Cheng and Livy Lyu
Analysts at brokerage JP Morgan Securities (Asia Pacific)