Hong Kong Customs mounted a one-week special operation against cross-boundary smuggling of illicit cigarettes by a targeted syndicate and smashed three cases in the action. A total of about five million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized and the total market value was about $12 million with a duty potential of about $8 million. In the operation, seven men aged between 38 and 55 were arrested and three cross-boundary vehicles used for conveying the illicit cigarettes were detained. A batch of counterfeit mobile phones and tablet computers were also seized.
After conducting a series of in-depth investigations, Customs found that the targeted illicit cigarettes syndicate smuggled cigarettes into Hong Kong by cross-boundary trucks. The cigarettes were then conveyed to designated points for speedy distribution to various buyers in the territory. After comprehensive intelligence analysis and thorough investigation, Customs took action on August 7 and intercepted a cross-boundary container truck unloading goods at a factory building in Sha Tin. About 2.4 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized from the container truck and five men were arrested.
With information revealed from the first case, Customs identified further targets for action. Two cross-boundary trucks declared to contain assorted goods were intercepted at Man Kam To Control Point on August 9 and about 2.6 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. Onboard one of the trucks, a large batch of suspected counterfeit mobile phones and tablet computers were also found. The two male truck drivers were arrested.
Customs believed that a major illicit cigarette smuggling syndicate has been dismantled, with seizure of the largest volume of illicit cigarettes in the past three years. Customs officers found that the syndicate tried to conceal illicit cigarettes in a hollow stack of carton paper boxes, a concealment method detected by Customs before. Meanwhile, this was also the first time that significant quantities of counterfeit electronic goods were found to have been smuggled together with illicit cigarettes in order to increase profit.
The Deputy Head of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Ms Lai Sau-ieng, said at a press conference today (August 11), "The operation showed the effectiveness of our enforcement strategy, especially the stepped-up enforcement actions at source. Customs will continue to undertake stringent enforcement against illicit cigarettes activities for protection of government revenue."
Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.
Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.
Ends/Sunday, August 11 2013