Hong Kong Customs mounted anti-illicit cigarette special operations for two consecutive days on October 31 and November 1, and detected two large-scale illicit cigarette smuggling cases in Tsing Yi and Tuen Mun. A total seizure of about 44 million suspected illicit cigarettes, with an estimated market value of about $120 million and a duty potential of about $85 million, were seized.
In the first case, Customs officers intercepted a container truck outside a container yard near Cheung Fai Road in Tsing Yi on the evening of October 31. Upon inspection, about 10.5 million suspected illicit cigarettes were seized inside a 40-foot container. After a follow-up investigation, Customs officers further seized about 11.7 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside another 40-foot container at the container yard.
In the second case, Customs officers on November 1 afternoon searched a container yard near Lam Tei in Tuen Mun and further seized about 22.2 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside two 40-foot containers.
During the operations, Customs officers arrested two men suspected to be connected with the first case. They comprise a 59-year-old male driver and a 31-year-old male porter. Four containers suspected to be involved in the two cases have also been detained.
Investigations of the two above-mentioned cases are ongoing. Customs believes that criminals took the opportunity to smuggle a large quantity of illicit cigarettes under inclement weather conditions before the typhoon strike in Hong Kong last week, which was intended to increase the difficulties for law enforcement by Customs. Customs will continue to trace the source and flow of the illicit cigarettes. The likelihood of further arrests is not ruled out.
Including the suspected illicit cigarettes seized in this operation, Customs had seized about 554 million suspected illicit cigarettes this year as at November 9, exceeding last year's total seizure amount of about 427 million suspected illicit cigarettes by 30 per cent.
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, November 10, 2022