A person who has travelled to and from the country multiple times cannot claim ignorance on failing to declare excess foreign currency upon exit (Taiwan)

Ankwei Chen

The Taipei High Administrative Court rendered the 108-Su-Zi-1227 Decision on December 11, 2019, in which it held that a person who travelled frequently has no legitimate reason to plead ignorance of the requirement that excess foreign currency must be declared upon exit; if a person still knowingly failed to comply with such obligation to declare, that person may be deemed to have the intent to engage in unlawful conduct.

While departing on a flight out of Taiwan, the Plaintiff was stopped by officers from the Aviation Policy Bureau under the Ministry of the Interior at immigration and found to be carrying in carry-on luggage Japanese cash currency that was not declared orally or in writing.  The Defendant (the Taipei Customs of the Customs Administration under the Ministry of Finance) was informed that the inspection turned up a total of 4.14 million Japanese yen, of which an equivalent of US$10,000 was returned to the Plaintiff.  The Defendant then issued an administrative decision to seize the remaining amount of 3.04 million JPY from the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff initiated an administrative appeal to contest the Defendant’s decision but did not prevail, after which the Plaintiff raised this current administrative action.

Article 8 of the Administrative Penalty Act provides that an actor shall not be exempt from administrative penalty for ignorance of law, but the penalty may be reduced or exempt depending on the circumstances.  The “ignorance of law ” refers to a person’s ignorance of the obligation to engage in a “required” act or refrain from a “prohibited” act instead of (ignorance) of a particular provision of law that is being breached..

This decision states that the Defendant has well fulfilled its duty to publicize to the public of the longstanding rule that a traveler needs to declare to the customs excess foreign currency that he or she is carrying out of the country.  The Plaintiff in this case is a long time resident of Japan and has traveled in and out of Taiwan frequently in the past, so there is no legitimate reason for the Plaintiff to claim ignorance of the requirement to declare to customs upon exit the excess foreign currency that he is carrying.  In addition, the Plaintiff was noted to have asked the travel agent to fill out the Japan customs declaration form for him in advance when purchasing the plane ticket, and he also specifically asked the airline personnel about this on the day of departure, so there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the Plaintiff was well aware of the requirement to declare the excess Japanese yen upon exit, and his knowingly violation of such obligation constituted an intent to engage in unlawful conduct.  As such, the Plaintiff’s argument that his punishment should be reduced was not persuasive, and the Defendant’s decision to seize the excess 3.04 million JPY was not in violation of the law.