Hong Kong Customs has mounted a one-month special operation throughout the territory to combat illicit cigarette retailing activities, especially those involving cross-boundary vehicles.
In the operation, a total of 18 cases were detected with 18 illicit cigarette storage points smashed and about 1.2 million sticks of illicit cigarettes seized. The total market value of the seizure was about $2.8 million with a duty potential of about $2 million. Nineteen men and five women aged between 16 and 65 were arrested. Eight vehicles used for conveying and storing illicit cigarettes were also seized.
Customs undertakes stringent enforcement against illicit cigarette activities on all fronts to protect government revenue. With a focus on the retailing activities of illicit cigarette distributors, the operation was conducted after comprehensive intelligence analysis and operational planning. On the distribution level, Customs found that illicit cigarette syndicates delivered illicit cigarettes quickly from one place to another and avoided storing large amounts of cigarettes in designated points to minimise loss if arrested.
The 18 illicit cigarette storage points smashed in the operation included six mini-storage units rented by the distributors, four residential premises and eight vehicles for conveying and storing illicit cigarettes.
In the first nine months of this year, Customs detected 20 significant smuggling cases with over 500,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes in each case. During the period, a total of about 32 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. The figures were higher than those of the total number of cases and seizures in 2012 (17 cases and about 27 million sticks of illicit cigarettes).
The Head of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Mak Hoi-wan, said at a press conference today (October 8), "The operation showed the effectiveness of our enforcement strategy. Customs will continue to undertake stringent enforcement against illicit cigarette activities on all fronts to protect 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 Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.
Ends/Tuesday, October 8 2013