Hong Kong Customs conducted anti-illicit cigarette operations last week and detected a large-scale illicit cigarette smuggling case on February 10. A total of about 42 million suspected illicit cigarettes with an estimated market value of about $120 million and a duty potential of about $81 million were seized in Tuen Mun and Fo Tan.
Customs officers intercepted a container truck on Hoi Wah Road, Tuen Mun in the morning that day. Upon inspection, about 10 million suspected illicit cigarettes were seized inside a 40-foot container. Later, Customs officers searched the Tuen Mun Public Cargo Working Area and a container yard in Lung Kwu Tan. About 22 million suspected illicit cigarettes were further seized inside two 40-foot containers.
After a follow-up investigation, Customs officers on the same day conducted a strike-and-search operation at an industrial building in Fo Tan and further seized about 10 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside a 40-foot container at the unloading area, a lorry and a unit suspected to be an illicit cigarette storage centre.
During the operation, Customs arrested two men, aged 56 and 65, suspected to be connected with the case. A lorry and four containers suspected to be involved in the case have also been detained.
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.
Customs will continue its risk assessment and intelligence analysis for interception at source as well as through its multipronged 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ends/Monday, February 13, 2023