Hong Kong Customs detects large-scale illicit cigarette smuggling case with seizures worth about $89 million (with photo)

8 Mar 2023

​Hong Kong Customs on March 3 conducted a special enforcement operation to combat illicit cigarette activities and detected a large-scale illicit cigarette smuggling case. A total of about 24 million suspected illicit cigarettes with an estimated market value of about $89 million and a duty potential of about $60 million were seized in Tsing Yi and Yau Ma Tei.

Through risk assessment, intelligence analysis and data analysis, Customs on that day targeted a barge suspected to be involved in smuggling activities in Yau Ma Tei. After investigation, Customs officers intercepted two container trucks suspected to be involved on Tsing Hung Road in Tsing Yi and Hoi Fai Road in Yau Ma Tei respectively, and seized a total of about 19 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside two 40-foot containers. Customs believes that the two containers came from the suspicious barge being targeted.

After a follow-up investigation, Customs officers searched another barge at the New Yau Ma Tei Public Cargo Working Area and further seized about 5 million suspected illicit cigarettes inside a 20-foot container.

During the operation, Customs officers arrested two male container truck drivers, aged 30 and 62, suspected to be connected with the case.

An investigation is 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 also 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 (crimereport@customs.gov.hk).

Ends/Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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