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By Dr. Mark Teuten

The current economic climate has caused many investors, small and large, to move a portion of their assets out of  currencies and into something perceived to be safer. Bricks and mortar are still a fairly safe bet in some parts of the world – although not all  –  but other investors are turning to gold.

Against this background, an increasing number of people want to know Uruguay’s legal framework in regard to importing and exporting gold. This article will cover the applicable law for private individuals and also touch on the laws for businesses subject to regulation by the Uruguayan Central Bank – which means basically all financial services business including those that transport currency.

First of all the good news: importing gold into Uruguay is free of all taxes and limitations. For amounts under U$S10K no action at all is necessary for a private individual. For amounts over U$S10K the only requirement is that a customs declaration be completed confirming the value of that being imported/exported.

This is set out in Law No 17.835 of September 2004, which is the law regarding money-laundering, in the amended text given by Law No 18.494 of June 2009.  The relevant clause is Article 19 sub-section 2, which reads as follows:

“.Every…..person who transports cash, precious metals or other monetary instruments over the border for a value over U$S10K must declare it to the National Customs Authority, in the form that the Regulations will determine. 

Non-compliance with these rules will result in the application of a fine by the Executive, whose maximum amount will be the amount not declared, taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

In a case of illicit transport of funds or securities, the competent authority will impound them, and will immediately take the pertinent measures in order to start the necessary administrative proceedings and will request within the next 48 hours (i.e. 2 working days), any other measures necessary to ensure that the State will be able to recover the amount of any fine foreseen in the preceding article. The Judge will fix the time during which the measures will apply, which cannot be more than 6 months and can be extended when it is  insufficient for reasons which are not the fault of the Administration. Without prejudice to that set out in the preceding article, the competent authority will immediately request a judicial embargo, when there are founded suspicions that the funds or securities come from any of the criminal activities specified in this law, even if they were committed abroad, as long as that conduct would also constitute a crime under Uruguayan law. The proof of a different origin by the owner of the funds or securities will result in them being returned, without prejudice to the measures necessary to ensure payment of the fine foreseen in this article. The judicial order which rejects a request for return of funds or securities is subject to appeal.” 


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The Regulations are set out in Decree 355/2010, Article 16 of which simply repeats that a declaration must be filed with customs. If it is being sent by freight separately from the passenger, then it should be declared in the bill of lading. The Regulations also confirm the right of the Executive to hand down a fine up to the total value of the non-declared funds or securities, subject to a report first having been made by the internal department of the Central Bank responsible for this area – the Unidad de Información y Analisis Finaciero (UIAF).

So the position in the law is clear: any private individual can bring in what they want, subject only to declaring it on arrival or leaving. If no declaration is made then the risks of confiscation or at least a substantial fine are significant however.

In the case of organizations regulated by the Uruguayan Central Bank the requirements are more stringent, basically involving a general obligation to inform of any activity that could be related to money-laundering or other criminal activities.

In regard to gold imports with a value over U$S10K, they must comply with the Central Bank Communication No 2006/277 which requires that they inform customs on entry including an authorization code previously downloaded from the Central Bank webpage.

To get that code the institution must complete a declaration containing:

  • information about the date of entry
  • the country of origin and the institution sending
  • the border post of entry
  • data on who will be receiving the goods for transport
  • the final destination of the goods
  • whether there is a prior contract covering the operation
  • whether the institution is acquiring the goods for itself or for a third party
  • a breakdown of the funds or securities coming in between cash, precious metals, etc.

In the case of exports the requirements are similar.

In the case of non-compliance, there are a range of sanctions available to the Central Bank. The writer is aware that some local exchange houses (“casas de cambio”) have been sanctioned in cases involving illicit transactions involving gold and this has resulted in them being subject to additional reporting requirements to the Central Bank.

In the case that any reader is thinking of using a Uruguayan institution to transport or receive their gold, then they should check with them to find out exactly what they need to be able to receive it.

In my next article I will deal with some of the practical issues that may arise on importing gold.

Mark Teuten

Dr. Teuten is a long-time expat, having first come to Uruguay in 1990.

Mark Teuten, Attorney

Mark Teuten, Attorney

He practiced law in England from 1987, requalified in Uruguay in 2004, and set up his own firm the same year. Mark writes, “I married in 1991 and am still happily married to the same lady! We have 3 children.”

Dr. Teuten is a member of our board of experts and we recommend him for immigration and other legal matters. You may contact  Dr Teuten at Teuten Abogados
Tel: + (598 2) 9088638   Fax: + (598 2) 9088640