Customs seizes $10 million worth of illicit cigarettes (with photos)

4 Jan 2014

Hong Kong Customs mounted a two-week special operation from mid-December, 2013, targeting cross-boundary smuggling of illicit cigarettes and distribution of cigarettes in the territory. In the operation, two cross-boundary vehicles suspected to be conveying illicit cigarettes were seized and five illicit cigarette storage points were smashed. About 3.95 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. The total market value was estimated at $10 million with a duty potential of about $6.7 million. Four men and three women aged between 23 and 63 were arrested.

The Customs stepped up enforcement actions against illicit cigarette activities during the Christmas and New Year holidays. With comprehensive intelligence analysis, Customs officers intercepted two incoming cross-boundary vehicles at the boundary control point and seized about 3.52 million sticks of illicit cigarettes on the vehicles. The two male drivers were arrested.

At the distribution level, five illicit cigarette storage points located in Tuen Mun, Choi Hung and Causeway Bay were smashed. Two men and three women were arrested. It was believed that the suspected illicit cigarette syndicate had been smashed. The syndicate was found to smuggle a large number of illicit cigarettes into the territory repeatedly within a short period of time so as to maintain a constant supply. The operation marked the effectiveness of the Customs' strategy of enhancing enforcement at source.

From January to November, 2013, the Customs detected 24 significant smuggling cases with an average of about 1.6 million sticks of illicit cigarettes in each case. During the period, a total of 38 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized, higher than total seizure made in 2012 (17 significant cases and about 27 million sticks of illicit cigarettes respectively).

The Head of Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Mak Hoi-wan, said at a press conference today (January 4), "The operation showed the effectiveness of enhancing the enforcement strategy at source. The Customs will continue to spare no effort to undertake stringent enforcement against illicit cigarettes activities on all fronts 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 4 2014

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