Customs officers from the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau and the Special Task Force have cracked 60 cases involving illicit cigarettes in a five-day territory-wide operation codenamed "Cougar 16" which began from June 14 (Monday).
In the operation, the officers discovered that illicit cigarettes were being hidden underneath the wooden platform of food stalls, inside flowerbeds, hose reels and drains.
Overall, Customs officers seized a total of about 1.5 million sticks of illicit cigarettes, worth about $2.15 million and with a duty potential of about $1.2 million.
They also arrested 46 people aged between 20 and 77. Of the 43 persons arrested for selling illicit cigarettes, 25 were mainlanders who had entered Hong Kong with two-way permits.
The operation was aimed at curbing the peddling of illicit cigarettes at various black spots, and to arrest people buying, selling or dealing with illicit cigarettes.
Customs officers smashed six storage centres of illicit cigarettes in the Western District, Kowloon City, Hung Hom and Mong Kok, resulting in the arrest of seven people and the seizure of 840,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. The seizure was worth about $1,200,000 and carried duty potential of about $680,000.
In one case, Customs officers found that two trucks were used for the dealing of illicit cigarettes inside the car park of an industrial building in Kwai Chung. They arrested three men, aged between 26 and 38, and seized 550,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes worth about $820,000 with a duty potential of about $440,000.
A Customs and Excise Department today (June 18) spokesman said that Customs officers would continue to stay vigilant and take similar enforcement action to crack down on illicit cigarettes activities.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, any person who is convicted of dealing, in possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes shall be liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years. They will also have a criminal record.
Customs appeals to members of the public to call the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 to report suspected illicit cigarettes activities.
Ends/Friday, June 18, 2004