Customs swoops on telephone-order illicit cigarette activities (with photo)

8 May 2012

Hong Kong Customs seized about 11,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes and arrested 22 persons suspected of buying illicit cigarettes by means of telephone order during a three-week special operation.

The Divisional Commander (Anti-Illicit-Cigarette Investigation) of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Lee Yuen-man, said today (May 8) at the press conference, "The operation was conducted between mid-April and early May targeting illicit cigarette buyers who were believed to have been buying illicit cigarettes by means of telephone order. As a result, illicit cigarettes were found in 22 residential premises. A total of 22 persons, including 21 men and a woman aged from 20 to 73, were arrested, and about 11,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. They have been charged under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance."

Customs established a 15-officer Telephone Order Task Unit on April 1 this year to enhance intelligence analysis, investigation and enforcement actions against illicit cigarette activities, in particular peddling via telephone order. The operation was planned and carried out after analysing the intelligence collected from several illicit cigarette cases detected last month.

Mr Lee said, "In the first four months of this year, Customs detected nine significant smuggling cases and smashed over 76 illicit cigarette distribution centres, resulting in the seizure of a total of 18.7 million sticks of illicit cigarettes valued at $50 million. Customs found that most of the distribution centres had made use of telephone ordering to sell the illicit cigarettes and the offenders distributed promotion leaflets to the targeted customers in public housing estates."

Customs will continue to closely monitor the situation and conduct stringent enforcement actions against illicit cigarette activities.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, buying and selling illicit cigarettes are illegal. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.

Members of the public are urged to report any suspect illicit cigarette activities to Customs' hotline at 2545 6182.

Ends/Tuesday, May 8 2012

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