Entering Germany with High-Value Assets / Cash (€10,000+)

Entering Germany with High-Value Assets / Cash (€10,000+)

When entering or leaving Germany with significant hard currency (cash), persons may need to comply with obligations to register or report these goods. This requirement also applies to securities, other means of payment or valuables such as high-value jewellery. Failure to comply with this obligation may result in significant and unnecessary fines or even a preliminary investigation.

In the following, we will explain what must be observed when importing cash or so-called “equivalent means of payment”.  Should you find yourself in a situation where you need legal assistance on this matter, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us using our contact details below this article. Our lawyers look forward to working with you.

You are here: Home » Criminal Defence Lawyer in Germany » Entering Germany with Hard Currency (€10,000+) / High-Value Assets

Google Rating | Based on 419 reviews

Obligation to Register from €10,000 Hard Currency when Entering Germany

Anyone who carries cash or other liquid assets with them a total value of € 10,000 or more when entering Germany from a non-EU state or leaving Germany for a non-EU state must declare this amount in writing. This must be done without being asked by the responsible German customs office. Failure to report or false declaration may result in a fine.

Transit flights from a non-EU state via an EU member state to another non-EU state are also subject to the obligation to declare cash exceeding € 10,000. So if you are in the international transit zone of a German airport during a stopover, registration must take place before the connecting flight.

All persons carrying cash are required to register. It is irrelevant to whom that hard currency belongs and why the person is carrying them. The term “cash” includes cash and securities such as savings bonds, cheques or shares. If it is a foreign currency, it must be converted into euros at the exchange rate on the day of entry or exit.

The obligation to declare cash is based on Regulation (EC) No 1889/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on controls of cash entering or leaving the EU. Further details are contained in German law under § 12a ZollVG. The background to the obligation to declare is to counteract illegal movements of money across the borders of Germany. It thus serves to combat money laundering and financing terrorism and crime.

Overall, its deterrent character is intended to contribute to the strengthening of security and prevention of criminal offences at EU level.

Oral Obligation to Report Equivalent Means of Payment

There is only a verbal obligation to notify the customs authorities upon request if a person with equivalent means of payment in a total value of € 10,000 or more enters Germany from a non-EU state or vice versa (§ 12a paragraph 2 ZollVG). A false or omitted declaration can also be followed by a fine. If necessary, information on the origin, the beneficial owner and the purpose of use must also be provided, and proof of this must be provided.

Equivalent means of payment are savings books, electronic money, precious metals such as platinum, gold or silver, and precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires or emeralds. This term does not include jewellery and other goods made of precious metals or gemstones. Therefore, there is no duty of disclosure in this regard.

When crossing the border with precious metals and gemstones, it should be noted that these can be considered both as equivalent means of payment and as goods. Consequently, they may have to be declared as goods. If the value limit of € 10,000 is exceeded, there is also the above-mentioned duty of disclosure. (Häberle, in: Erbs/Kohlhaas, Criminal Auxiliary Laws, ZollVG § 12a Rn. 3)

When leaving Germany for a non-EU country, you are not required to declare to customs any items in your baggage that you carry with you if they are goods for personal use or consumption or gifts. However, your luggage must be in the same means of transport as you are so that it is considered to be carried. On the other hand, goods that are subject to prohibitions or restrictions, formalities under foreign trade law or whose export is for commercial purposes must be declared to customs.

The same is to be considered with the entry to Germany. However, the corresponding exemption limits must not be exceeded. This lies in principle with a commodity value of altogether 300 euros, with journeys with the aeroplane or ship with 430 euros.

Legal Consequences for Breaches / Omissions when Entering Germany

A false, incomplete or omitted declaration of cash carried or a statement of equivalent means of payment is an administrative offence punishable by a fine of up to €1 million. The fine proceedings are based on § 377 AO in connection with § 31a ZollVG.

Persons without a permanent residence or domicile in Germany may be required to pay a certain amount of money, depending on the expected fine, as security for continued paying of the fines. After the administrative fine proceedings, the security will be offset against the set fine, and if necessary, any excess amount paid will be refunded.

Suppose there is reason to believe that cash or equivalent means of payment are being carried, for example, for the purpose of money laundering, the financing of terrorism or a terrorist group. In that case, the case will be forwarded to the customs investigation department if necessary. There, the facts of the case are to be clarified at short notice through research. If this is not successful, customs officials seize the cash or equivalent means of payment (see § 12a para. 7 ZollVG), and, if necessary, investigation proceedings are initiated.

Finally, criminal proceedings can also be initiated, for example, on suspicion of money laundering. For this purpose, the findings resulting from customs control can be passed on to the responsible law enforcement authorities. Please get in touch with our legal professionals immediately if you find yourself in this situation.

Entering Countries with Hard Currency within the EU

Whether there is an obligation to declare the carrying of cash when crossing borders within the EU depends on the respective EU member states. In this case, you should obtain information from the competent customs offices of the countries from which you are leaving and into which you are entering.

In Germany, even cash and equivalent means of payment over € 10,000 do not have to be declared when crossing borders within the EU, but only have to be declared verbally when questioned by customs (§ 12a para. 2 ZollVG). If this declaration is not made, is incomplete or incorrect, this constitutes an administrative offence, which may also be followed by a fine of up to €1 million.

Within the EU, there are generally no restrictions on the transport of goods.

Avoid Penalties, Comply with Registration

If you can foresee that you will be crossing the German border with large amounts of hard currency, other securities or equivalent means of payment of high value, you should take care of the registration early enough to avoid problems at the border.

Our clients often hoped (often travellers neglect the declaration and hope) not to be approached by customs. However, this risk should not be taken in the first place. If you still have problems because of the import or export of cash or equivalent means of payment, our lawyers for criminal law will help you.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our experienced and knowledgeable team advises on all areas of German criminal law. We offer our services in English as well as German and other languages. With offices in Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as conference rooms in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart we are available nationwide.

Schlun & Elseven Logo

Practice Group: German Criminal Law

Practice Group:
German Criminal Law

Contact our German Lawyers

Please use the contact form to contact our law firm regarding your concerns in the field of criminal law in Germany. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation.