HK Customs successfully prosecutes smuggling syndicate through evidence-taking hearing in Mainland

8 Feb 2013

Through the solicitation of the first-ever evidence-taking hearing in the Mainland by Hong Kong Customs, five members of a cross-boundary smuggling syndicate were sentenced to four to six years' imprisonment today (February 8).

Since 2009, Hong Kong Customs had mounted a joint investigation with the Mainland Customs into a smuggling syndicate which was suspected of smuggling over 500,000 tons of "marked oil" by fishing vessels to the Mainland and laundering crime proceeds up to $2.6 billion over the past years. In a joint operation between Hong Kong Customs and the Mainland Customs in 2010, Hong Kong Customs arrested 19 persons, including the masterminds of the syndicate, and froze about $240 million worth suspected crime proceeds obtained in smuggling activities. After thorough investigation, Hong Kong Customs prosecuted five persons in August 2010.

During the investigation, Hong Kong Customs identified four Mainland witnesses who had information regarding the detailed operations of smuggling which was crucial to prosecution. In order to obtain such evidence, Hong Kong Customs solicited assistance from the Mainland court in accordance with the Evidence Ordinance with the assistance of the Department of Justice and the Judiciary for the first time.

From May to September last year, with the co-ordination of the Mainland Customs in making relevant arrangements, Hong Kong Customs, together with the District Court Judge and the prosecution and defence counsels, attended an evidence-taking hearing at the Shenzhen Municipal Intermediate People's Court in three phases. Testimonies were obtained from the four Mainland witnesses and were later ruled admissible as evidence.

The case was tried at the District Court from August to November 2012. The five defendants were convicted of one count of conspiracy to export unmanifested cargo and six counts of money laundering charges. Hong Kong Customs will also apply to confiscate a total of about $240 million worth crime proceeds owned by the five offenders.

A Customs spokesperson noted that the case affirmed the effectiveness of the enforcement co-operation between Hong Kong Customs and the Mainland Customs. It also set an example for future co-operation between the two sides.

The spokesperson said that smuggling and money laundering are serious offences and once convicted the maximum sentences are seven and 14 years' imprisonment respectively and the maximum penalties are $2 million and $5 million respectively.

Ends/Friday, February 8 2013

Previous Page