Customs seizes 3.9 million sticks of illicit cigarettes and smashes a syndicate (with photos)

11 Jan 2014

Hong Kong Customs mounted a one-week special operation before the Chinese New Year to enhance enforcement against cross-boundary smuggling of illicit cigarettes and the distribution of cigarettes in the territory. In the operation, a light goods vehicle and a cross-boundary vehicle suspected to be conveying illicit cigarettes were seized. Also, an illicit cigarette storage centre was smashed.About 3.9 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. The total market value was about $9.4 million with a duty potential of about $6.6 million. Three men and one woman, aged between 26 and 56, were arrested.

Following a series of anti-illicit-cigarette operations last month, the Customs continued to step up enforcement actions against illicit cigarette activities on all fronts. With comprehensive intelligence analysis, Customs officers intercepted a light goods vehicle in Sha Tin and seized about 400 000 sticks of illicit cigarettes with the arrest of a man and a woman. Subsequently, an illicit cigarette storage centre located in Sham Shui Po was smashed with the seizure of about 800 000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. One man was arrested.

The Customs anticipated that the syndicate would soon smuggle illicit cigarettes into Hong Kong to replenish the supply. After stepping up enforcement actions against incoming vehicles at land control points, Customs officers successfully intercepted an incoming cross-boundary vehicle and seized about 2.7 million sticks of illicit cigarettes mixed with other goods. The male driver was arrested.

The Head of Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Mak Hoi-wan, said at a press conference today (January 11), "The operation showed the effectiveness of enhancing the enforcement strategy on all fronts. During the Lunar New Year period, the Customs will continue to spare no effort 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/Saturday, January 11 2014

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