Customs officers have stepped up enforcement in December against illicit cigarettes activities during the festive seasons, Deputy Head of Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Ng Yan-kwong, said.
"We target at both the distribution and retail levels of the illicit cigarette activities, particularly syndicated activities, to protect Government revenue," he said.
Customs officers cracked three illicit cigarette cases between December 19 and 21, including the neutralisation of an illicit cigarette syndicate on December 21.
Overall, Customs officers seized about 3.18 million sticks of illicit cigarettes, worth about $4.45 million and with duty potential of about $2.55 million. Five men, aged between 25 and 56, were arrested.
In an operation yesterday (December 21), Customs officers foiled an attempt by a syndicate active in New Territories West to smuggle into Hong Kong from the Mainland large quantity of illicit cigarettes to meet with the festive demand. They seized from two vans in Yuen Long 2.68 million sticks of illicit cigarettes, worth about $3.75 million and with duty potential of about $2.15 million. A 36-year-old male driver was arrested.
Separately, Customs officers found in early December that there was smuggling of cigarettes by parcels to overseas. Customs officers yesterday (December 21) smashed an illicit cigarette storage centre in Tsuen Wan, leading to the seizure of 230,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes, worth about $320,000 and with duty potential of about $180,000. Two Mainland men, aged 29 and 33, who were about to post parcels to UK were arrested.
In another development on December 19, Customs officers arrested two men, aged 56 and 25 respectively, in Cheung Sha Wan and Yuen Long. They were suspected of distributing illicit cigarettes. The officers seized 270,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes, worth about $380,000 and with duty potential of $220,000.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, the maximum penalty for dealing with dutiable goods is a fine of $1 million and two years' imprisonment.
Ends/Friday, December 22, 2006