German customs nabs Vietnamese diplomat on suspicion of money smuggling

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A Vietnamese senior diplomat was detained by German customs officials as he transited in Frankfurt City with nearly €20,000 in undeclared cash, exceeding the allowed amount by German regulations, the local Bild newspaper reported.

Nguyen The Cuong, the Vietnamese ambassador to Turkey, arrived in Frankfurt Airport at around 9:45 p.m. Thursday on a Turkish Airlines flight from the Turkish capital city of Ankara.

Cuong had been stopped by customs officials at the airport on suspicion of money laundering, but was then allowed to go after paying a "security deposit" of $3,500.

The Vietnam Consulate in Frankfurt said the custom officials' actions "clearly" violated the Vienna Convention on exemptions for diplomats.

Cuong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the families of his office's employees had asked him to bring the money back to Vietnam, and part of it was donations for flood victims in Vietnam.

He said he was on his trip from Ankara to Hanoi to participate in the 28th Diplomatic Conference, which took place from December 16 to 20.

He thanked the Vietnam Consulate in Frankfurt for its intervention in his case.

The customs officials told Cuong that the $3,500 they kept was not a fine and he will be able to take it back, he said without elaborating on when.

He also claimed that the officials violated the Vienna Convention, but admitted that he had not known that the German authorities only allowed less than €10,000 ($13,673) in cash to be brought into their country.

Those who enter Germany from a country not belonging to the European Union, or leave Germany for such a country, with €10,000 or more in coins and bills, checks, money orders, bills of exchange, promissory notes and shares are required to submit a written declaration to customs.

The foreign money will be converted into euros, calculated based on the buying rate on the entry or exit day.

Similar procedures have been applied in other EU countries since June 15, 2007.

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