Russian authorities detained four men who arrived at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport on a flight from Istanbul with $20 million in cash.
Three Azeri citizens and one Iranian attempted to enter the country without declaring the $14.5 million and 4.1 million euros ($5.4 million) they carried in four suitcases and four backpacks, the Federal Customs Service said on its website.
The bills, in $100 and 500 euro denominations, weighed 400 kilograms (880 pounds), Larisa Ledovskikh, a spokeswoman for the customs service, said by phone in Moscow.
“This is a particularly large sum,” Ledovskikh said. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”
The men are being held for failing to declare the currency before they entered the country, Ledovskikh said, declining to identify the men before they are charged.
Before today, Vnukovo, one of three international airports in the Russian capital, registered 382 violations of customs and currency laws totaling 75 million rubles ($2.4 million) since the start of the year. Nobody could immediately be reached for comment at the Iranian or Azeri embassies in Moscow.
The Federal Customs Service statement did not detail whether the flight from Istanbul was commercial or private.
Vnukovo, which also has a terminal for private flights, served about 7.3 million passengers in the first nine months of this year. Cross-town rivals Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo served 16.9 million and 14.7 million passengers respectively over the same period, according to information on their websites.
Customs at the Sheremetyevo airport in July detained more than 12,000 cartridges for various firearms transiting from Los Angeles to Yerevan, Armenia, in baggage belonging to a U.S. citizen, according to a statement on its website.
Last month, Sheremetyevo officials prevented an illegal export of eight falcons on a scheduled flight from Moscow to Damascus. The falcons, on Russia’s endangered species list, were found wrapped in fabric inside wooden crates. The crates had air holes in them and also contained plastic bottles of ice, the customs said in a statement.
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