To enhance public awareness of the cigarette duty-free concession and related penalty, the Customs and Excise Department has produced a new Announcement of Public Interest for broadcast on television stations starting from tomorrow (October 15).
A spokesman for the Customs and Excise Department today (October 14) reminded Hong Kong residents not to bring into Hong Kong an excess amount of duty-free cigarettes or they might face prosecution or penalty.
The spokesman said that under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, a returning Hong Kong resident aged 18 or above and with a Hong Kong identity card, who has spent 24 hours or longer outside the territory, may bring in free of duty 60 cigarettes for his/her own use.
"Possession of undeclared dutiable cigarettes in excess of the duty-free concession is an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and two years' imprisonment," he said.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, an incoming passenger at a control point must declare to a Customs officer the quantity of dutiable cigarettes in his/her possession that is in excess of the duty-free concession. He/she may bring into Hong Kong those cigarettes after payment of duty.
If an incoming passenger makes a false or incomplete declaration, he/she may either be prosecuted, or fined under the "Compounding Scheme".
Under the "Compounding Scheme", a person is required to pay a penalty five times equivalent to the duty payable on the dutiable goods concerned plus a fine of $2,000. If the duty payable on the dutiable goods concerned exceeds $10,000, or if a person has been compounded five times or more in the preceding two years, he/she will be prosecuted.
The spokesman pointed out that in September 2004, Customs officers at Lo Wu Control Point had detected 189 cases of returning local residents abusing the cigarette duty-free concession.
The officers arrested 189 people and seized a total 73,317 sticks of dutiable cigarettes, worth $117,307 and with a duty potential of about $58,946.
The spokesman stressed that Customs officers at all control points had stepped up checks on incoming passengers to prevent abuse of the cigarette duty-free concession.
Plain-clothed Customs officers will patrol arrival areas of control points to detect arrival passengers who do not declare excess quantity of dutiable cigarettes in their possession.
He added that Customs officers could conduct speedy verification on whether a Hong Kong resident had spent 24 hours or longer outside the territory through online communication with the Immigration Department.
There are ongoing broadcasts about cigarette duty-free concessions at the Lo Wu arrival hall by means of a public announcement system and electronic panel.
The spokesman appealed to the public to be patient when going through Customs checks at the control points.
Ends/Thursday, October 14, 2004