- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), working with their Israeli law enforcement counterparts in Israel and at U.S. airports, have seized nearly $500,000 in cash, negotiable checks, gold and diamonds in an investigation into the illicit movement of currency.

The seizures, part of a law-enforcement initiative known as “Hands Across the World,” also resulted in the arrest of Silvia Joseph, 39, from Argentina, who was apprehended as she tried to leave Newark (N.J.) Liberty International Airport without declaring $130,145 in currency.

Miss Joseph now faces a federal criminal charge for failing to report the international movement of currency exceeding $10,000. CBP officers discovered the U.S. currency concealed in her carry-on luggage on a flight destined for Tel Aviv.

In a separate seizure, CBP officers seized $59,060 in bulk cash and negotiable checks at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from an Israeli man en route to Tel Aviv.

ICE spokesman Richard A. Rocha said that overseas agents and officers also targeted flights from the U.S. to Jordan and focused on passengers who subsequently crossed the Israel-Jordan land border.

He said agents seized $49,000 from a U.S. citizen en route to Ramallah at the Allenby Crossing into Israel. Additionally, Israeli officers seized $60,000 in gold and diamond jewelry that an Israeli woman tried to hide underneath her clothing, he said.

“Disrupting and dismantling terrorist and other criminal organizations by cutting off the cash flow that fuels their illegal activity is a top priority for ICE,” said Marcy Forman, director for ICE’s Office of Investigations. “Countries must look beyond their own borders to effectively combat the global threat posed by bulk cash smuggling.

“As this operation with Israel demonstrates, the highest level of success can only be achieved when law-enforcement partners combine resources and work together,” she said.

Mr. Rocha said the operation began in 2007 and built on the success of “Operation Firewall,” a Department of Homeland Security investigation that targeted bulk cash smuggling in the United States interior, at the ports of entry and internationally.

He said the new operation expanded that probe to include the exchange of information including cash declaration data between ICE, CBP and foreign law-enforcement agencies.

Since 2005, Operation Firewall is credited for more than $124 million in seizures; $45 million taking place internationally, including seizures in Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, he said.

“This operation is one of the many partnerships CBP is engaged in to protect our homeland by stopping illicit cross-border activities,” said CBP Assistant Commissioner Thomas Winkowski, who oversees the agency’s Office of Field Operations. “These seizures demonstrate what can be accomplished when law-enforcement agencies work together with vigilance and a commitment to combating terrorist and criminal organizations.”

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