Customs officers injured as truck rams cordon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 April, 2009, 12:00am

Four customs officers were injured when a truck loaded with illegal cigarettes and driven by a suspected smuggler rammed their unmarked van in an attempt to break through their cordon in Yuen Long yesterday.

Other officers arrested the truck driver as he jumped out of his vehicle and tried to escape on foot after the head-on collision. Cigarettes worth HK$3.8 million were confiscated.

About 30 customs officers had set up an ambush in Tai Sang Wai, near Fairview Park, at about 8pm on Wednesday after learning that the Shan Pui River waterfront was being used as a pick-up point by smugglers bringing in cigarettes from the mainland. Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, a truck and a delivery van arrived at the waterfront.

At about 12.10am, customs officers in unmarked vehicles moved in to block the narrow road, which is the only way out of the area.

The truck driver tried to escape but reversed into the delivery van. He then tried to drive through the roadblock, said Andy Hui Wai-ming, head of the customs division that tackles cigarette smuggling. The driver ignored warnings to stop.

'Our colleagues had to dodge to avoid being hit by the lorry as it refused to stop and moved forward,' Mr Hui said. 'It bumped into our car and continued to drive forward until it rammed head-on with our van. Four colleagues on board the van were injured.'

The 26-year-old driver, surnamed Ho, jumped out of the truck and was arrested by other officers.

One of the four injured officers was trapped and had to be freed by firemen. The four were taken to Tuen Mun Hospital, where three were treated and discharged and 41-year-old Yan Moon-fai remained in stable condition last night. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Commissioner of Customs and Excise Richard Yuen Ming-fai visited Mr Yan, who suffered leg injuries.

Mr Hui said the four officers had no time to escape or leave the van in the incident. 'The suspect drove in a reckless manner,' he said. 'We never expected the smugglers would have tried to break our cordon and ram our vehicles.'

The van driver escaped on foot.

A customs spokesman said last night the arrested truck driver would be charged and would appear in the Fanling court today.