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Argentina's Dollar-Sniffing Dogs

Fighting capital flight with four legs

At Buenos Aires’ Buquebus ferry terminal on a recent Friday, Argentine tax agency officials strolled by idling cars waiting to board the boat to neighboring Uruguay. Golden and Labrador retrievers on leashes accompanied the tax men. As they passed the vehicles, the dogs sniffed their way through trunks and luggage. They were not looking for drugs.

Argentina’s tax agents are deploying dogs trained to detect the ink used to print U.S. bills. The goal is to catch Argentines trying to leave the country with more than the $10,000 legally allowed out of Argentina without declaring it to the government. In mid-December, in their highest-profile catch, the dogs discovered $30,000 packed inside the spare tire of a BMW leaving for Uruguay on the ferry. The dogs and their employer, the tax agency known as AFIP, had found a total of $2.7 million in U.S. bills as of mid-December 2011. The K9 corps includes 300 dogs at border crossings and the regional airport, as well as the ferry terminal.