HK$21m haul seized in Tai O, but suspects flee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 2009, 12:00am

Marine police seized HK$21 million worth of furs, computer hard disks and mobile-phone components in a raid on a smuggling operation in Tai O, Lantau, on Wednesday night.

Police said 96 of the 123 boxes of goods seized in the operation contained furs worth a total of HK$20 million.

Senior Inspector Winsy Ng Wing-see said it was the biggest seizure of animal skins or smuggled goods in the past year. It was also the first time police had found Tai O being used as a loading dock for smuggling activities, she said.

'It's a remote location and very quiet at night. They [smugglers] are alerted once strangers or vehicles enter the area,' she said. 'They posted lookouts at road junctions to monitor whether police had laid an ambush. Some rode on bicycles to patrol and reconnoitre the area before the start of the smuggling operation.'

Marine police began surveillance in the area after receiving information about two weeks ago, and officers lay in wait at observation posts at Tai O for several nights.

At about 10.30pm on Wednesday, two speedboats, each with two men on board, were seen manoeuvring off Tai O.

The speedboats later stopped at the waterfront on Tai O Road and were met by a truck.

Officers rushed out when six men started loading boxes from the truck on to the two speedboats.

The smugglers dumped the goods and escaped in two speedboats. A police launch was deployed to intercept them but, during a 15-minute sea chase, the smugglers' boats, each equipped with two outboard engines, outran the police launch and left Hong Kong waters heading towards the mainland.

On land, officers seized 96 boxes of furs, 25 boxes of computer hard disks and two boxes of mobile-phone components. Police also impounded the truck.

Officers believe the consignment was intended for Shekou , Shenzhen.

'We believe we have dealt a heavy blow against the syndicate, as they lost a large amount of goods,' Ng said. The Customs and Excise Department would follow up the case, police said.

The source of the goods would be investigated, along with the kinds of animals whose pelts were found.

A police officer said smugglers were constantly moving their loading points and changing methods, to avoid police detection.