Officers of the Trade Controls Branch of Hong Kong Customs seized 242 000 pieces of garments, worth $5.4 million, in a series of blitz operations codenamed "Talisman" at the land boundary control points to crack down on the illegal transshipment of textiles.
The Principal Trade Controls Officer, Mr Marcus Lau, of the Customs and Excise Department's Trade Controls Branch today (June 18) said, "Since the global phasing-out of textile quota on January 1, 2005, illegal transshipment activities of textiles in Hong Kong have subsided. In the first five months of this year, only 162 textile-related cases were detected at the control points, down 17.3% from 196 cases in the corresponding period last year. Meanwhile, the number of Outward Processing Arrangement (OPA) abuse cases also plummeted 34.2% from 76 to 50.
"When the US government announced its decision on May 23 to re-impose quota on certain major categories of textiles and clothing originating from the Mainland, Hong Kong Customs has stepped up its inspections at factories producing the specific categories that are subject to quantitative restriction.
"In addition, the Department also re-deployed additional manpower to the control points to intensify the checking on those categories, to strengthen the enforcement control over OPA, and launched the Operation 'Talisman'," he added.
Mr Lau emphasised that these enforcement measures aimed to ensure that any textile goods claiming to be originated in Hong Kong must have been produced in the territory in conformity with Hong Kong's rules of origin.
Citing the enforcement statistics starting from May 23, Mr Lau pointed out there had not been any sign of rampant illegal transshipment.
During the operation code-named "Operation Talisman" beginning on May 23 until 7am this morning (June 18), officers of the Trade Controls Branch of the Customs and Excise Department intercepted 1075 vehicles and examined their cargo upon their departure for the Mainland or arrival in Hong Kong.
As a result, they found and seized on 13 vehicles a total of 242 000 textile and clothing products worth $5.4 million. Those products were being smuggled into and out of Hong Kong in contravention of the Import and Export Ordinance or as part of some fraudulent schemes to abuse the OPA for illegal transshipment of textile and clothing products.
Customs investigations showed that contraventions fell into three major types. The first type related to false declaration. Some of the cargo on the vehicles bound for the Mainland consisted of quantities of defective garments and rejected cut-pieces. These stuffs were falsely declared to be garments of Hong Kong origin that were being exported to the Mainland for processing under the OPA.
The second type involved inflation of quantity. Some of the cargo consisted of garments that were allegedly being exported to the Mainland under the OPA. But in the relevant OPA documents for the garments, which were produced to the Customs for endorsement, the quantity of garments had been inflated to a considerable extent. These fraudulent schemes were perpetrated to mislead Customs officers into endorsing the OPA export documents, so that the endorsed documents might be used to smuggle into Hong Kong garments originating in the Mainland for eventual transshipment to overseas markets, as if they were products of Hong Kong origin.
The third type was connected with false labeling. Some of the goods seized on vehicles arriving in Hong Kong from the Mainland were bearing labels with a false trade description.
A total of 13 local firms might be involved in these 13 cases. Hong Kong Customs believed that the operation successfully foiled attempted illegal transshipment of 250 000 pieces of garments, worth $5.8 million, to the overseas markets.
Mr Lau said, "The great majority of local manufacturers in the textile industry are law-abiding. The Hong Kong Customs will continue to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards violations of the rule of origin control and any illicit activities tending to tarnish Hong Kong's trading image.
"The Department will continue to rigorously enforce the Import and Export Ordinance and its allied regulations to crack down on illegal transshipment activities," he added.
In the first five months of this year, a total of 459 firms engaging in textile and clothing trade were prosecuted for violation of the Import and Export Ordinance. The court imposed a total fine of $9.7 million on those offenders and forfeited $16.5 million worth of goods that were connected with the offences.
Traders and manufacturers are reminded that the Import and Export Ordinance provides for heavy penalty for contravention of the Ordinance. Any person who is found guilty of an offence under the Ordinance may on summary conviction be liable to a maximum penalty of $500,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
Ends/Saturday, June 18, 2005