Triad-run smuggling syndicates offer logistics service to mainland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am

Four or five triad-controlled smuggling syndicates with at least 10 speedboats are said to be running what amounts to a logistics service between Hong Kong and the mainland every night.

Hired by underworld shippers wanting to avoid hefty mainland taxes and import restrictions, the gangsters charge about HK$1,000 per carton and can carry up to 200 per trip, a government official says. Operating mainly twin-engine speedboats, they hire triad members as porters.

The officer, who is involved in anti-smuggling operations, admits local law enforcers have difficulty combating the 'well-organised' operation. 'They have lookouts on land and at sea. Before the start of an operation, they also reconnoitre their loading dock and nearby areas to ensure that no officers have laid an ambush. And they change their loading dock every night,' the officer said.

He was speaking after customs officers arrested a 29-year-old man and seized goods worth HK$3 million at a known smuggling black spot in Sai Kung. Seven other men escaped in speedboats towards the mainland.

The officer said smuggled goods included computer hard disks, laptop computers, mobile phones and seafood and their main destinations were Nanao, Huidong and Shekou in Guangdong.

'They operate every night. They will only take a break during the Chinese New Year holidays or stop when there is a massive crackdown by mainland authorities,' he said.

Triad societies involved include Sun Yee On, 14K and Wo On Lok, also known as Shui Fong.

'They charge HK$1,000 each carton of smuggling goods. At least 200 cartons are involved in one operation so that they can pocket about HK$200,000,' the officer said.

In Sai Kung, about 15 locations are known to be used as loading docks by smugglers, including Wong Keng Tei - the scene of yesterday's seizure - Tsam Chuk Wan, Pak Sha Wan and the waterfront outside the Outward Bound School off Tai Mong Tsai Road. Black spots elsewhere include Sam Mun Tsai in Tai Po, the cargo handling area in Chai Wan and St Stephen's Beach in Stanley.

If officers raid loading sites, smugglers dump the goods and flee in speedboats usually able to outrun the pursuit craft. Before amended legislation came into force in December allowing the seizure of suspiciously powerful speedboats, Hong Kong-registered speedboats were found to have been used in such smuggling activities. 'These days, the syndicates operate with mainland-registered speedboats,' the officer said.

Under the new provision, a vessel of less than 250 gross tonnes fitted with one or more outboard engines exceeding 225 horsepower can be presumed to have been used for smuggling and the vessel and goods involved are liable to forfeiture.

The man arrested yesterday was among eight found moving cartons from a village house and loading them onto one of three speedboats at a jetty at about 12.15am.

Customs officers, who had lain in wait since 3pm on Wednesday after a week-long surveillance operation, seized 235 cartons of electronic products, including computer hard disks and laptop computers, in the village house and on the jetty.

Superintendent Chong Wai-ming, head of customs' special task force, said investigation showed the consignment was intended for Huidong.

Illicit cargoes

In operations against smugglers this year, officers have arrested 18 people and seized goods worth, in HK dollars: $34m