Year-end press conference on Customs work in 2010 (with photo)

31 Jan 2011

This is the first time that the year-end press conference to review the Customs work is held in the newly commissioned Customs Headquarters Building. Our colleagues are very pleased with the new office environment after moving into the new Building in mid-December last year. We will hold an official opening ceremony in late February, and you will be invited here again to visit the various facilities in the new Building. With the commissioning of the new Customs Headquarters Building, not only Customs' image is promoted, communication and sense of cohesion within the Department strengthened, our previous offices in commercial districts including Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon Bay can also be returned to the Government for allocation to other government departments in need.

In the past year, the Customs and Excise Department achieved good progress in various areas, including anti-smuggling, revenue protection, anti-narcotics, intellectual property rights protection, consumer rights protection and clearance facilitation.

Revenue Collection on Dutiable Commodities

Regarding revenue collection on dutiable commodities, duty collected by the Department in 2010 amounted to $7,100 million, representing an increase of 14% when compared with the figure of $6,240 million in 2009. Among them, over half was from tobacco products ($3,820 million), followed by hydrocarbon oil ($2,980 million) which accounted for around 40% of the revenue collected on dutiable commodities. The increase in duty collected derives mainly from tobacco products, with an increase of 22% when compared with the figure in 2009.


On anti-smuggling, the Department successfully detected a total of 258 smuggling cases last year, representing an increase of 15% when compared with the figure of 224 cases in 2009. About 80% of the smuggling cases involved smuggling activities between the Mainland and Hong Kong (200 cases), an overall situation similar to 2009. The number of arrested persons involved in smuggling in the whole year was 226, representing a drop of 10%; and the total seizure value was $391 million, which also dropped by 7%. The drop may be due to our stepped-up inspection of suspicious vehicles involved in smuggling in recent years, especially seven-seater cross-boundary vehicles. Recently, we found that the route of smuggling had switched from land to sea. A total of 113 sea smuggling cases were detected last year, representing an increase of nearly 30% when compared with the 88 cases in 2009. On the contrary, 87 land smuggling cases were detected last year, which decreased by 16% when compared with the 104 cases in 2009.

On smuggled items, those smuggled from Hong Kong to the Mainland were still mainly high-value goods such as computers and related accessories, mobile phones and related accessories, electronic products, fur and expensive seafood, while those smuggled into Hong Kong from the Mainland were mainly illicit cigarettes and copyright infringing articles.

Anti-Narcotics work

Last year, the Department seized 693 kilogrammes of drugs, representing an increase of around 6% when compared with the 652 kilogrammes of 2009. During the year, cocaine was the most seized drug, with a total of 354 kilogrammes seized. This was mainly attributed to a cross-boundary trafficking case effected in December, with 286 kilogrammes of cocaine seized. Following was methamphetamine (ice), with a total seizure of 89 kilogrammes. This was attributed to the largest methamphetamine manufacturing centre raided in July with about 70 kilogrammes of methamphetamine seized. Other seizures include 47.9 kilogrammes of ketamine, representing a drastic decrease of 87%, and 42.7 kilogrammes of heroin, an increase of 10%.

During the year, 431 drug cases were detected and 370 persons arrested. Both the number of cases and arrested persons decreased by more than 20% compared with the overall situation in 2009, mainly attributed to the Department's persistent enforcement actions at the various control points in the past two years, thereby creating deterrence against cross-boundary drug-trafficking activities. Among those arrested, 34 persons were juvenile aged below 21, a decrease of 30% compared with the 49 persons arrested in 2009, with 17 arrested at the land-boundary control points, the youngest being 17 years old.

Combating Illicit Cigarettes

Last year, Customs detected 6,308 cases in connection with cigarette smuggling, storage, distribution, peddling and bringing in excessive duty-free cigarettes, which signifies a drop of 25% as compared with 2009. In combating illegal activities in relation to illicit cigarettes for the local market and export/transshipment to places outside Hong Kong, a total of 76 million sticks of cigarettes were seized, which increased by 25% compared with the 61 million sticks in 2009. As 29 million sticks of the total were seized in export/transshipment cases, there were in fact about 47 million sticks from the local illicit cigarette activities, representing a decrease of about 20% as against 2009. About 40% of the cigarettes seized were fake.

The decrease in the number of cases and quantity of illicit cigarettes in connection with the local illicit activities were mainly a consequence of Customs' intensified effort to combat street peddling and telephone ordering after the increase of tobacco duty and the abolition of duty-free concessions. As a result, such illegal activities have reduced in scale and magnitude.

We will continue to reinforce publicity, appeal to the public and the industry to report illicit cigarette activities and remind members of the public that anyone involved in the buying of illicit cigarettes as the case with selling commits an offence, and attracting a criminal record once convicted. In 2010, the Customs arrested a total of 367 buyers of illicit cigarettes, a rise of 77% as compared with the previous year. The offenders were sentenced up to two months' imprisonment and fined up to $20,000 after convicted. A total of 473 sellers of illicit cigarettes were arrested who were sentenced up to ten months' imprisonment and fined up to $50,000.

Intellectual Property Rights Protection

In 2010, the Department detected a total of 610 pirated article cases (mainly involving pirated optical discs), representing a substantial decrease of 90% as against the previous year. The total seizure was worth $26 million, a drop of 63% as compared with the previous year; and 532 persons were arrested, representing a drop of about 50%. There was a substantial decrease in the number of pirated cases mainly because Customs had adopted new enforcement strategies. Apart from frequent raids on street peddling of pirated articles, intelligence gathering and in-depth investigations were also stepped up to combat the sale of pirated optical discs operated by criminal syndicates. We estimate that the number of black listed shops selling pirated optical discs has reduced to three or four.

On combating counterfeit goods, a total of 739 counterfeit cases were detected in 2010, a decrease of 27% as compared with the figure of 1,014 cases in 2009, and 667 persons were arrested, representing a decrease of 13% as against 2009. Articles worth about $120 million in total were seized, an increase of 28%, involving mainly electrical appliances, electronic products, watches and watch parts, leather goods and clothes. The sale of counterfeit goods concentrated in areas with heavy pedestrian flow such as Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok, being targeted mainly at tourists visiting Hong Kong.

With the growing popularity of the Internet and the advances in technology, we are very concerned about pirated activities and sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet. Last year, Customs effected a total of 18 Internet copyright infringement cases, representing a rise of 13% as compared with 2009. Regarding the sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet, a total of 45 cases involving mainly auction websites were detected, representing a rise of 15% as compared with 2009. Counterfeit goods seized mainly consisted of accessories, watches, clothes, leather goods, toys, sunglasses and World Cup jerseys etc. We notice that those engaged in such activities were largely employed, operating on a low budget, and obsessed to make quick money.

For the combat of copyright infringing activities through "peer-to-peer" network on the Internet, we worked in collaboration with the Centre for Information Security and Cryptography of The University of Hong Kong and developed a monitoring system named "Lineament Monitoring System I" in 2007. Thereafter, we co-operated with the Centre again and successfully developed a monitoring system named "Lineament Monitoring System II", targeting the activities of Internet auction sites selling intellectual property infringement articles. By entering some relevant information into the system, we can impose a 24-hour monitoring of the local Internet auction sites and suspected infringing activities are recorded to facilitate follow-up action and investigation by Customs officers. As "Lineament Monitoring System II" can be operated automatically, not only can it enhance the efficiency in monitoring Internet auction sites, it can also enhance the enforcement effectiveness of combating the sale of infringing articles through Internet auction sites as it can operate round the clock.

Consumer Protection

Regarding the work of consumer protection during the year, Customs handled a total of 431 cases, comparable with the figure in 2009, of which 112 were false trade descriptions cases, 145 in breach of the Weights and Measures Ordinance (i.e. "short-weight") and 157 cases were related to the Toys and Children's Products Safety Ordinance.

During the year, there were 65 cases in total in which the persons/shops involved were convicted of breaching the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, which was an eight-fold increase when compared with the seven cases in 2009, with fines ranging from $1,000 to $120,000. Among them, 39 cases involved fake dried abalone slices, with fines ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. A shop-owner was even sentenced to four months' imprisonment with a suspended sentence of one year. Five cases involved gold and diamond products. There were another 30 cases in which the persons/shops involved received warning letters from the Department and the goods concerned were also confiscated by order of the court.

Since the Department has stepped up inspection to crack down on short-weight activities, the situation has shown improvement. In 2010, there were 145 cases involving short-weight offences in contravention of the Weights and Measures Ordinance, which represented a drop of nearly 20% compared with the 178 cases in 2009. During the year, 172 retailers/shop assistants and ten shops were prosecuted and convicted, including 74 scrap traders and shop assistants as well as 37 seafood retailers. Other industries included vegetable and fruit retailers, seafood restaurants and roasted meat retailers. Both the number of persons and shops prosecuted increased when compared with 2009. Among them, two scrap traders convicted had platform scales which were short in weight by 15% to 24%. They were fined $10,000, the heaviest penalty among cases of the same type, and the subject platform scales were also confiscated by the court.

Lastly, Customs Officer Yuen Wai-cheung, who suffered injuries on his liver while on duty during an anti-illicit cigarette operation in October last year, and Inspector Hui Sai-man who donated part of his liver to save the life of his colleague, have got extensive support and concern from the general public. I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of you, especially friends from the media present at this press conference. The two colleagues are now recovering satisfactorily under the good care of professional medical personnel. We have just received Professor Lo Chung-mau's notification that Customs Officer Yuen Wai-cheung will be discharged from hospital before the Lunar New Year. We will arrange for both colleagues to resume duty after seeking doctors' advice and the views of both colleagues.

Thank you.

Ends/Monday, January 31, 2011

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