Hong Kong Customs detected two large-scale illicit cigarette smuggling cases on October 14 and 15 with a total seizure of about 43 million suspected illicit cigarettes made in Yau Ma Tei, San Tin and Tsing Yi. The estimated market value was about $120 million, with a duty potential of about $81 million.
In the first case, through risk assessment, intelligence analysis and data analysis, Customs officers on October 14 intercepted a suspicious barge and tugboat in the waters off Yau Ma Tei. After inspection, Customs officers seized a total of about 20 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside two 40-foot containers on board the barge. Four men aged between 42 and 61, suspected to be connected with the case, were arrested.
In the second case, Customs officers intercepted two container trucks at a container yard in San Tin, Yuen Long, and Container Port Road South in Kwai Chung in the morning of October 15. Suspected illicit cigarettes were also found inside the 40-foot containers of the two trucks. The total number of illicit cigarettes was about 23 million. During the operation, Customs officers arrested two male drivers, aged 58 and 59, and detained two containers suspected to be involved in the case.
Investigations of the two above-mentioned cases are ongoing. Customs will continue to trace the source and flow of the illicit cigarettes. The likelihood of further arrests is not ruled out.
Customs will continue its risk assessment and intelligence analysis for interception at source as well as through its multi-pronged enforcement strategy targeting storage, distribution and peddling to spare no effort in combating illicit cigarette activities.
Smuggling is a serious offence. Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.
Customs reminds members of the public that it is an offence to buy or sell illicit cigarettes. Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.
Members of the public may report any suspected illicit cigarette activities to Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account (email@example.com).
Ends/Thursday, October 20, 2022