Hong Kong Customs on January 9 conducted a special enforcement operation and detected a suspected illicit cigarette smuggling case involving a barge in the waters near Yau Ma Tei Anchorage. About 24 million suspected illicit cigarettes with an estimated market value of about $66 million and a duty potential of about $46 million were seized.
Through risk assessment, intelligence analysis and data analysis, Customs intercepted a suspicious barge in the waters near Yau Ma Tei Anchorage in the morning that day. Upon inspection, Customs officers seized the batch of suspected illicit cigarettes inside two 40-foot containers and a 20-foot container on board the barge.
During the operation, Customs officers arrested two men, aged 45 and 50, suspected to be connected with the case.
Moreover, Customs found that the brands of some of the suspected illicit cigarettes seized are uncommon in Hong Kong. It is believed that illicit cigarette syndicates intended to transship part of the illicit cigarettes overseas, apart from supplying illicit cigarettes in the local market.
An investigation is ongoing. Customs will continue to trace the source and the flow of the illicit cigarettes. The likelihood of further arrests is not ruled out.
With the Lunar New Year holidays approaching, Customs believes that illicit cigarette syndicates took the opportunity to smuggle a large quantity of illicit cigarettes in order to ensure a stable supply for local or overseas illicit cigarette markets.
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).