Belmont Club

Taken -- to the Cleaners

Hostage situations are high drama and negotiating with the Iranians is a tricky proposition. Unless care is taken, the wily Ayatollahs can get the better of one. Thankfully the administration is headed by top men who are rarely if ever outwitted. An American hostage told the media they were kept on ice at airport until the plane loaded with cash coincidentally touched down.

Then they could go. Charles Krauthammer says that apart from the fact that sending pallet loads of money in the night might look like a ransom payment to Iran, transferring such large amounts of cash in such shady circumstances might cause legal complications.

For most people, taking a few hundred million dollars in cash on a plane trip — especially to the terror capital of the world — could get you into trouble.  “What happens if you don’t declare currency over $10K at customs,” asks an article by Ken Andersen.

In the United States, it’s pretty stiff — they take it ALL.

The Washington Post just ran an article on $72,000 seized by Customs and Border Protection from 3 passengers in 3 days. Two of them had reported $10,000 but were carrying $29,660 and $20,435. The other man headed for Ukraine declared $15,000 but had $22,000. All of it was confiscated, except for $1,000 allowed to the Ukraine bound passenger because he would “need some pocket cash’ once there.”

None of them were charged with crimes and were allowed to continue their travels, but they’ll never get their money back.

The $400 million planeload might not be the end of it. The New York Times reports: “White House officials have declined to say whether the rest of the $1.7 billion payment (including $1.3 billion in interest) was also made in cash.”  Doubtless this unimportant question will go unasked as the media focuses on more weighty issues, like Melania Trump’s modeling photographs.

Obviously the rules are different in this case; it’s diplomacy and allowances have to be made. Anyway the issue will be dead and buried in a few days.  The media will see to that.  But it’s instructive vignette all the same.  The administration’s eagerness to please Iran only goes to show that life does not imitate art.  The idea of a nation protected by American tough guys is belied by the facts.  There’s not even a British tough guy in the equation.

Instead of the “Liam Neeson” school of telephone etiquette, we have Lurch’s “you rang?” Which is kind of sad; it’s as if the last vestiges of administration self respect hitched a ride along with the cash on the plane.  Maybe Hillary will do better. She’s been getting ready for the 3 am phone call all her life .

Good luck.

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