Raid nets HK$31m in smuggled goods

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am

But six suspects escape in speedboats with contraband

Marine police yesterday seized HK$31 million worth of computer parts and electronic products - including four cinema projectors - as they were about to be loaded onto mainland-bound smugglers' speedboats.

The haul at Wong Shek pier in Sai Kung Country Park was the largest in five years and the first involving the projectors, which cost about HK$250,000 each.

Police arrested a driver and confiscated his truck and the goods at about 7am but six smugglers fled in three speedboats loaded with about 10 boxes of contraband goods. A Government Flying Service helicopter and pursuit craft failed to stop them.

'It's the first time we have discovered such cinema projectors,' Senior Inspector Law Tung-wah, of the marine police said. 'We believe they were to supply cinemas on the mainland.'

About 20 officers set up an ambush at the pier after a tip-off.

'Smugglers carried out counter-surveillance in the sea and on the land before calling in speedboats from the mainland with a walkie-talkie,' Senior Inspector Law said. 'The three speedboats, with two men on board each, circled before approaching the pier.'

At about 7am, the truck arrived and its driver began unloading the goods. Police swooped as the three men from the speedboats came ashore and started loading the boxes.

Police caught the truck driver, 42, and seized the goods on the pier but the three other men jumped on their boats and sped away.

'The three speedboats were equipped with two outboard engines each and they left Hong Kong waters in about 10 minutes fleeing in the direction of the mainland,' Senior Inspector Law said.

The contraband, including the projectors, computer chips, hard disks, digital cameras, video recorders, mobile phones and watches, was packed into 251 boxes.

Initial investigation showed that the haul was destined for Huidong in Guangdong province before being distributed to other locations, police said.

'There is a high demand for high-valued and hi-tech goods on the mainland,' the senior inspector said. 'Smugglers are trying to escape hefty taxes which run up to 60 to 70 per cent on the mainland.'

He believed local smugglers received orders from the mainland and packaged the goods.

'We discovered the names of more than 10 buyers from some information in the boxes,' the officer said. 'We will seek help from mainland authorities through our liaison officers to locate the buyers.'

He said smugglers had become active since the Lunar New Year. Last Wednesday marine police arrested 11 people on a cargo vessel off Sai Kung and seized HK$16 million worth of computer products.

Officers from the small-boat division who were on an anti-smuggling patrol spotted seven boats entering Hong Kong waters from Mirs Point on the mainland. Speedboat crews were seen loading cargo from the bigger vessel, but quickly left.