Smugglers' big slide gives police the slip

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 August, 2009, 12:00am

Eight smugglers literally slipped away from a team of police officers who raided a coastal hillside in Southern District, where the smugglers had set up a large slide to load contraband onto boats.

It was the longest slide the officers had ever found - about 40 metres. It was made of wooden planks, for sliding contraband rapidly down the slope.

Marine officers admitted that in the past they might have overlooked smuggling in the wealthy, residential Southern District - home to many local tycoons and celebrities.

Senior Inspector Ng Wing-see of the marine police said smuggling syndicates may have been operating there for some time.

Acting on tip-offs, marine police launched their operation near the coast on Thursday night. At about 4.30am, officers spotted six suspicious speedboats moored at a deserted bay near Nam Wan Beach.

Officers took action when they saw eight men unloading boxes from a goods van parked on a roadside up the slope and lowering items down the wooden slide.

Five of the speedboats sped away immediately. The other one waited for the eight men to slip down the slide and hop on board. Then it, too, sped away.

The boats headed towards Round Island and eventually left Hong Kong waters. About 20 people were involved, police said.

The marine officers failed to arrest anyone in the operation, but seized from the abandoned van 56 boxes of contraband, including computer hard disks, furs and second-hand mobile phones.

The goods were estimated to be worth HK$4.1 million and had been destined to be smuggled to the mainland, police said.

There were 43 cases of smuggling by sea in the first half of the year, according to customs figures.

Sixty people were arrested and smuggled items worth HK$115 million were seized.

This compared with 83 cases for the whole of last year, when 156 people were arrested and HK$357 million worth of smuggled goods were seized.

Senior Inspector Ng, of the Marine Outer Waters District, who was in charge of yesterday's operation, said the smugglers could move goods from the van to the speedboats in about six seconds with the aid of the wooden slide.