Customs and Housing Department deter illicit cigarette activities in public housing units

5 Dec 2005

Customs officers conducted a territory-wide crackdown against the sale and distribution of illicit cigarettes and counterfeit cigarettes on street level since November 15.

During the raids, officers found that two public housing units, located at Oi Man Estate, Ho Man Tin and Choi Wan Estate, Ngau Chi Wan respectively, had been used to store illicit cigarettes. The cases concerning the abuse of public housing units were referred to the Housing Department to follow up.

In the operation, Customs officers seized a total of 3.2 million sticks of illicit cigarettes. The seized cigarettes carried a value of about $4.8 million, and a duty potential of $2.57 million. About 23 per cent of the seized cigarettes were counterfeits.

Twenty-two illicit cigarette storages were smashed.

The officers arrested 65 men and 32 women, aged between 17 and 75. Of them, 49 were peddlers, 27 were distributors and 21 were buyers.

The Divisional Commander of the Customs General Investigation and Support Division, Mr Ko Kwok-cheung, said at a press briefing today (December 5) that Hong Kong Customs would continue to clamp down illicit cigarette activities, and mount joint operations with the Housing Department from time to time to deter abuses of public housing units.

As a result of joint crackdowns, 11 cases with seizure of about 30,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes were cracked in 2005 so far, while 13 cases with seizure of about 60,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes were detected in 2004.

So far in 2005, 19 public rental housing units and three tenant purchase scheme flats were suspected to have been used for the illegal storage and sale of illicit cigarettes. Customs officers seized about 440,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. A total of four notices-to-quit and three warning letters were issued by the Housing Department.

In 2004, 34 public rental housing units and three tenant purchase scheme flats were found to be used for similar purposes. Customs officers seized about 800,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. As a result, 12 notices-to-quit and 22 warning letters were issued with three flats recovered from the abusers.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, any person dealing with, selling or buying illicit cigarettes is liable to prosecution. The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $1 million and two years' imprisonment,

Also attending the press briefing was the Senior Housing Manager of Task Force, Housing Department, Mr Siu Kam-lam.

End/Monday, December 5, 2005

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