Customs guards against OPA abuses

5 Sep 2005

Officers of the Trade Controls Branch of the Customs and Excise Department yesterday (September 4) at 5am, acting upon an informer's tip-off, found in an inbound lorry at Lok Ma Chau Control Point 51,000 Mainland origin garments with false origin labels.

Some of the garments were suspected to be counterfeits of famous brands. The garments, worth $1.5 million, were seized for further investigation.

Separately, on September 1 and 2, the officers mounted an overnight blitz operation codenamed "Firewall" at Lok Ma Chau Control Point against illegal circumvention of the rules of origin.

During this intelligence-led operation, Customs officers seized a large quantity of useless garment panels on two lorries bound for the Mainland and arrested two male drivers, aged 39 and 47.

The stuffs were falsely represented as 151,700 knitted garments being delivered to the Mainland for minor finishing processes under the Outward Processing Arrangement (OPA).

The officers believed they had foiled the fraudulent attempts made by nine dishonest garment traders to obtain false export endorsements on 51 sets of OPA documents for the ultimate purpose of transshipping 151,700 Mainland origin garments worth $7.6 million to overseas markets including US and EU, as if they were products of Hong Kong origin.

The Head of The Trade Controls Branch, Mr Raymond Wong, said during the press conference today (September 5), "Upon the imposition of import quota control by US Government and EU since May against certain major categories of textiles and clothing originating from the Mainland, Hong Kong Customs has strengthened consignment inspections, and conducted more blitz operations to guard against any abuse of OPA, and to ensure that textile goods claiming to be originating in Hong Kong must have been produced here in conformity with the rules of Hong Kong origin."

"As several companies involved in the present case, it is believed that the safeguard restrictions or exhaustion of the Mainland safeguard quotas has driven some garment traders to risk passing off the Mainland garments as Hong Kong products and transshipping them via Hong Kong to the US and EU markets." In the first seven months this year, Customs prosecuted 613 companies and persons engaging in textiles and clothing for offences under Import and Export Ordinance. They were fined $12.9 million and $19.6 million worth of goods were forfeited.

"Customs is committed to enforcing the Import and Export Ordinance and other related legislation to uphold the integrity of the certification of origin system. Any illicit activities hampering the image of Hong Kong will not be tolerated, " Mr Wong stressed.

Traders and manufacturers are reminded that the Import and Export Ordinance provides for heavy penalty for offenders against the Ordinance. An offender may be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 and to imprisonment not exceeding two years for each offence.

Ends/Monday, September 5, 2005

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