In 2011 Hong Kong Customs achieved good results in various areas of its work, including revenue protection, anti-smuggling activities, drug detection, protecting intellectual property rights, consumer protection and trade facilitation, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Clement Cheung, said today (January 19) at a year-end review on the work of the department.
On trade facilitation, the full implementation of the Road Cargo System (ROCARS) last year marked a milestone in electronic customs clearance in Hong Kong.
"The ROCARS has been running smoothly since it was fully implemented on November 17 last year. Cross-boundary trucks, whether laden or unladen, now only take 20 seconds to complete all clearance procedures. The ROCARS surely facilitates the realisation of one-stop cargo clearance for inter-modal transshipment cargo (e.g. from land mode to air mode), hence facilitating the development of Hong Kong's logistics industry," Mr Cheung said.
On law enforcement, Hong Kong Customs detected 9,106 illicit cigarette cases in connection with smuggling, storage, distribution, peddling and excessive duty-free cigarettes brought in by incoming passengers, with a total of 106 million sticks of cigarettes seized, representing an increase of 44 per cent and 39 per cent respectively compared with the figures for 2010. About 35 million cigarette sticks were seized in export/transshipment cases while the remaining sticks were seized in local illicit cigarette activities.
Mr Cheung noted that illicit cigarette activities had become relatively active after the increase in the duty rate for tobacco to 41.5 per cent in February. The whole situation, however, was gradually put under control following Customs' vigorous enforcement action against these activities. Street peddling activities at blackspots almost vanished. Moreover, 773 persons were arrested in the selling and buying of illicit cigarette activities. Among them, 268 were buyers, representing a drop of 27 per cent against 2010. Increased public awareness of the criminal consequences of buying illicit cigarettes was believed to have induced the drop.
On anti-narcotics work, Customs detected 447 cases and arrested 416 people, representing an increase of 5 per cent and 13 per cent respectively compared with 2010. A total of 329 kilogrammes of drugs were seized, a decrease of 41 per cent compared with 2010. Heroin was the most seized drug and nearly all was intercepted at the airport.
Mr Cheung said, "Hong Kong, as a major transportation hub and logistics centre, handles a huge volume of passengers and cargoes everyday. Naturally, culprits will take advantage of the situation for trafficking drugs. Hong Kong Customs has strengthened intelligence exchange with the Mainland and overseas law enforcement agents to curb the influx of dangerous drugs into Hong Kong or to other places transiting Hong Kong. In light of a number of cocaine cases detected recently, we have already strengthened the communication network with the relevant departments in South American countries.
"In order to carry out our enforcement more effectively, we are keeping track of the latest developments in scanning technology and will study the practicality of introducing suitable equipment or techniques with reference to devices being used by authorities in other places," he added.
In 2011, Hong Kong Customs detected 202 smuggling cases, a drop of 22 per cent when compared with the 258 cases in 2010. The total seizure value was $715 million, a rise of 82 per cent compared with $393 million in the previous year. About 83 per cent of the cases involved smuggling activities between the Mainland and Hong Kong. Items smuggled from Hong Kong to the Mainland were still mainly high-value goods including computers, mobile phones and related accessories and electronic products, while those smuggled into Hong Kong from the Mainland were mainly illicit cigarettes and copyright infringing articles.
The department detected 458 counterfeit cases in 2011, a decrease of 38 per cent compared with the 738 cases in 2010, and arrested 430 persons, representing a decrease of 36 per cent compared with the 668 persons in 2010. Articles worth about $146 million in total were seized, involving mainly electrical appliances, electronic products, watches and watch parts and leather goods.
On consumer protection work, the Customs effected 384 cases, of which 156 involved a breach of the Weights and Measures Ordinance, involving 146 persons and eight shops. During the year, there were 119 false trade descriptions cases, 55 of which were convicted by court, 16 involved canned abalones and 10 involved regulated electronic goods.
Since the enactment of the Trade Descriptions (Amendment) Ordinance 2008, some unscrupulous traders were recently found cheating customers with confusing price units with tactics such as distracting customers' attention, avoiding questions on price units and charging a higher price when customers tender their credit cards for payment. Mr Cheung stressed that the department would deploy more manpower to step up patrols at shops and assign the Customs Quick Response Team to handle urgent complaints in order to maintain the confidence of local consumers and tourists.
Regarding revenue collection on dutiable commodities, duty collected by the department in 2011 amounted to $7,810 million, with about 95 per cent of the revenue collected from tobacco products and hydrocarbon oil.
Ends/Thursday, January 19, 2012