The Customs and Excise Department has been closely monitoring illicit cigarette activities at all control points and street markets following the levying of the new tobacco duty. It has targeted its efforts at different levels, including enforcement action against smuggling, storage, distribution and peddling of illicit cigarettes.
Speaking at a briefing today (March 5), the Head of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Chow Chi-kwong, said that in the week since the new tobacco duty had come into effect, Customs had strengthened its enforcement action against illicit cigarette activities. So far there was no sign of a deteriorating trend.
Mr Chow said, “Customs will continue to closely monitor illicit cigarette activities and will take corresponding enforcement action. We have also enhanced manpower deployment to step up our action against such illicit activities.”
Special operations have been mounted since last week to combat illicit cigarette activities at different levels. On peddling of illicit cigarettes, Customs officers detected 40 cases and arrested 46 people. A total of 69,000 sticks of cigarettes, worth about $120,000 with a dutiable value of $84,000, were seized.
In addition, four storage and distribution centres for illicit cigarettes were cracked with four persons arrested, and 500,000 sticks of cigarettes worth about $900,000 with a dutiable value of $600,000 seized.
On the smuggling side, Customs cracked six cases at the land boundary control points. A total of 3.4 million sticks of cigarettes, worth $6.5 million with a dutiable value of $4.1 million, were seized. Six persons were arrested.
Mr Chow said, “We will spare no effort to combat illicit cigarette activities. We will strengthen intelligence collection in order to crack down on organised smuggling activities from the sources and launch intensive operations against retailing and peddling of illicit cigarettes.”
Mr Chow stressed that anyone involved in buying or selling illicit cigarettes had criminal liability and a criminal record may also be generated. Appealing to members of the public not to buy or sell illicit cigarettes, Mr Chow noted that under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in the dealing with, possession, selling and buying of illicit cigarettes committed an offence. The maximum penalty on conviction is imprisonment for two years and a fine of $1 million.
He also encouraged members of the public to report suspected illicit cigarette activities to the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.
Ends/Thursday, March 5, 2009