Customs target traders who cheat recyclers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am

Customs officers will target unscrupulous traders who use rigged scales to cheat waste recyclers after the number of complaints rose by 70 per cent last year.

Commissioner of Customs and Excise Richard Yuen Ming-fai said yesterday that the fraud tactics had 'crossed the line' as it took advantages of paper scavengers, who were mostly elderly people.

Some 179 enforcement actions were taken last year against traders who used rigged scales, up 70 per cent from 2008, the third consecutive year that recorded an increase, the department said.

A total of 149 people were convicted, 45 of whom worked for waste recyclers and 44 seafood traders. The maximum fine for the offence is HK$15,000.

Yuen said the use of rigged scales had been largely under control after strict enforcement - except for the waste recycling industry.

'This is a clear message that we are taking the matter very seriously,' he said yesterday.

'Our officers will not let up by cracking down hard on repeat offenders and the court will hopefully then give them a heavier penalty.' Customs are also hoping university researchers can find a system to help them detect the traders' hi-tech manipulation of the scales.

Meanwhile, the commissioner said they had noticed a rising trend of people selling counterfeit goods on the internet.

A total of 39 cases were detected last year, double the figure from the previous year, with 44 people arrested and the seizures goods, mostly handbags, clothing and watches, were worth HK$660,000.

'Most people we arrested were 'small guys' - housewives or students - who thought their trails in the virtual world would never be discovered,' Yuen said. 'But they were so wrong because the transactions in the real world involved money and we can track all the records. It is not difficult.'

Assistant Commissioner Tam Yiu-keung said the department would improve relations with the city's internet service providers and auction sites to jointly combat the sales of counterfeit goods.

They are also considering using software to track the auction sites around the clock.