Hong Kong Customs has mounted an enforcement operation codenamed "Thunder III" in the past two weeks to combat illicit cigarette telephone-ordering activities in public rental housing (PRH). A total of about 1 million suspected illicit cigarettes were seized across the territory with an estimated market value of about $2.7 million and a duty potential of about $1.9 million. Forty-two persons were arrested.
During the operation, Customs officers detected 41 relevant cases in different districts, including Lam Tin, Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Sheung Shui, Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun, resulting in the above-mentioned seizures of suspected illicit cigarettes. In those cases, Customs officers have raided three suspected illicit cigarette storages and detained a private car suspected to be used for illicit cigarette distribution.
In the above-mentioned cases, 35 men and seven women, aged between 16 and 74, were arrested, including both illicit cigarette sellers and buyers. All the cases have been duly followed up.
Customs started the "Thunder" special operation in September last year to step up enforcement against illicit cigarette activities in PRH. The operation has been in its third phase till now and will be continued.
Customs has all along been enhancing enforcement against illicit cigarette activities on all fronts, including cross-boundary smuggling, storage and distribution as well as peddling, through intelligence analysis. If PRH units are found to be involved in illicit cigarette activities, Customs will notify the Housing Department for follow-up action after the conclusion of court proceedings.
Customs reminds members of the public that selling and buying of illicit cigarettes are illegal. 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/Friday, March 19, 2021