Customs seizes record haul of untaxed liquor and beer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2006, 12:00am

Customs officers have made their biggest seizure of untaxed, mainland-made liquor in five years and arrested three people.

The seizure of 37,701 bottles of herbal and rice wines, red wine and beer - 12,832 litres in all - is 12 times the amount seized in the whole of last year.

The retail price of the consignment was $1.21 million, with tax revenue estimated at $97,000.

Officers believe they have smashed a syndicate run by a couple who smuggled liquor from Guangdong, according to Ronny Ng Yan-kwong, deputy head of Customs' Revenue and General Investigation Bureau.

'The modus operandi was that the syndicate used duty-paid beer to camouflage untaxed mainland wines and beer, and smuggled them into Hong Kong in a bid to avoid detection,' he said.

'The illicit liquor was smuggled from the mainland to avoid tax ranging from 40 per cent to 100 per cent of the value of the liquor.'

Although the liquor was untaxed, he said, none of it appeared to be fake.

Mr Ng believed the syndicate had been in operation for only a short period, and officers were still investigating how much untaxed liquor had been sold.

The haul included Tsingtao Beer, Nu Er Hong Rice Wine, Guling Magical Wine, Zhi Bao San Bian Jiu and Ku Linang Shun.

The arrests were made on Saturday after a two-week investigation, when officers intercepted a Hong Kong-bound container truck at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint at 10.30am.

Officers arrested its 39-year-old driver after finding 32,916 bottles of untaxed wine and beer in the truck among 12,000 bottles of duty-paid beer.

In a follow-up raid, officers seized 4,785 bottles of mainland wines in a Yip Wong Road warehouse and a Sam Shing Estate shop in Tuen Mun. A 47-year-old man and his wife, 49, were arrested. Officers said the couple, who ran the shop and the warehouse, were suspected to be the masterminds of the syndicate.

Mr Ng said seizures were normally made from passengers arriving from the mainland.

The three suspects have been released on bail.