Customs successfully prosecutes two men offering their mobile phone number for ordering illicit cigarettes

14 Jul 2014

Hong Kong Customs has successfully prosecuted two men who were found to offer a mobile phone number registered under their own names to an illicit cigarette syndicate for telephone ordering. The two men, aged 24 and 26, were detected by Customs during follow-up investigations into an illicit cigarette syndicate smashed earlier this year. They were found to have offered their own mobile phone number to the syndicate for telephone ordering of illicit cigarettes. Prosecution action was taken against these two men. One of them pleaded guilty in Tsuen Wan Magistrates' Courts in April and was sentenced to 120 hours of community service. Another was sentenced today (July 14) in Tsuen Wan Magistrates' Courts to 180 hours of community service after four court hearings.

This is the first successful case in which Customs applied the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance to prosecute criminals offering an individual registered telephone number to an illicit cigarette syndicate for receiving telephone orders.

A Customs spokesman said that Customs smashed an active illicit cigarette telephone-ordering syndicate in March this year with the arrest of four persons and a seizure of 150,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. Investigations revealed that the mobile phone number printed on the telephone-ordering sheets was registered by two men one after another and the number was then provided to the illicit cigarette syndicate. Customs took action to arrest these two men. Evidence showed that the two men knowingly provided the mobile phone number registered under their own names to others for sale of illicit cigarettes. They were prosecuted with the charge of "aiding and abetting others in selling illicit cigarettes" and were convicted.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in buying, selling or dealing with 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 not to become involved in illegal activities nor offer their own registered telephone numbers to illicit cigarette syndicates for use in telephone ordering. The public should report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

The spokesman said that in 2013, Customs set up a dedicated Telephone Order Task Unit with 26 officers engaged in conducting intelligence analysis and mounting special operations against illicit cigarette activities involving telephone ordering.

In 2013, there were 195 illicit cigarette cases involving telephone ordering, representing an increase of about 50 per cent over 2012. In the first half of 2014, the Task Unit detected 105 such cases, and the increase was about 10 per cent as compared to the same period of 2013. Customs will continue to monitor the situation and take stringent enforcement action against illicit cigarette activities.

Ends/Monday, July 14, 2014

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