Marine police seize silver bricks worth HK$4.2m, but smugglers flee in speedboats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am

Police smashed a silver smuggling operation in Sai Kung early yesterday, but the 11 smugglers escaped on two powerful speedboats.

Authorities said they had confiscated 1.3 tonnes in bricks of silver, with a retail value of HK$4.2 million bound for the mainland.

Senior Inspector Roger Mak Chi-man, of the marine police outer waters district, said they found 51 silver bricks, some of them weighing 30kg, inside a delivery van parked near Po Leung Kuk holiday camp off Tai Mong Tsai Road.

The speedboats had docked about 200 metres away for the pickup. It was the biggest water-smuggling operation of a precious metal in three years, police said.

They said they witnessed 10 men from the speedboats and the driver of the van unload the bricks from the back of the vehicle onto the speedboats at about 2am.

Police land and sea teams then swooped on the smugglers, who had to abandon their operation and escape - leaving most of the load.

The smugglers outran water police in their powerful vessels, which were last seen crossing the sea boundary east of Hong Kong heading towards Shenzhen.

'Each speedboat was equipped with two 250-horsepower engines. They're very powerful and can run at very high speed,' Senior Inspector Mak said.

The pursuit was also hampered by a big swell, he said. Onshore, officers seized the delivery van.

Police did not reveal whether they had any prior intelligence of the silver smugglers, but they did say marine police had been carrying out anti-smuggling operations.

'There were 51 silver bricks on board the vehicle. Each was wrapped with water-proof covering,' he said.

Officers believe the haul was destined for Nanao on the coast of Shenzhen.

Police are still investigating the source of the silver bricks and whether the delivery van was stolen.

'We can't rule out the possibility that the silver bricks were to be smuggled onto the mainland to escape tariffs,' said Senior Inspector Mak, who described the smugglers as 'well organised'.

His colleague, Senior Inspector Mak Che-hung, said silver bricks could be used as raw material for industrial products.

The Customs and Excise Department is also investigating.