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The Moroccan Ministry of Finance has issued a circular urging the Customs and Indirect Tax Administration to tighten their control mechanisms to prevent currency trafficking. The circular also wants customs officers to be more vigilant, encouraging them to carry out manual searches of traveler’s luggage in addition to checking with scanners.

This circular is a reaction to the recent illegal trafficking of money in the country. In the past weeks, Moroccan Customs and Excise at the northern borders have seized several large sums of money from travellers attempting to illegally divert funds out of Morocco.

The ministry is focused on fighting against the increasing number of currency trafficking operations at the country’s borders.

The illegal diversion of funds out of the country negatively impacts Morocco’s economy, creating a deficiency in the country’s foreign currency stock. To control this, the government allows for a specific amount a traveller can leave the country with. In January 2019, the Office of Exchange increased the amount a traveller can travel with from MAD 2,000 to MAD 45,000.

By law, the total amount of the allowance cannot exceed MAD 100,000 per person in a year. This means it is illegal for both Moroccan and foreign citizens to carry more than the specified amount of MAD out of the country. It is also illegal to use international credit cards to withdraw excess sums abroad, or make bank transfers which exceed the prescribed amount.

The police have arrested about 11 people involved in the illegal transfer of large sums of currency exceeding their annual allowance in the past week. Among them a Moroccan national who resides in the Netherlands, was caught crossing the border in possession of nearly 12,000. Following the arrests, the customs officers wrote a seizure report pending the results of an investigation which is still on going.

Just last month, five British tourists were arrested in Morocco for currency falsification and trafficking, as well as assault. Also in February 6, 2019, customs aborted two trafficking attempts of more than 168,000 in Tanger-med port.

Illicit trafficking of money leads to tax evasion, which would result to a loss in government revenue thus affecting the capacity of the government to spend. It also reduces productivity in the economy’s real sector by diverting resources and encouraging crime and corruption which slow economic growth and can distort the economy’s external sector, international trade and capital flows to the detriment of long-term economic development. Hopefully, this directive allows Morocco to regain control of its currency flow.

By Tobiloba Ishola

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