Huge haul seized aboard mainland-bound ship

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2011, 12:00am

Customs officers seized one of their largest hauls of smuggled goods from a mainland-bound cargo vessel on Saturday, after a week-long surveillance exercise.

The goods were in a container and included more than 29,000 computer hard disks, 10 million integrated circuit components and 10.8 tonnes of electrolytic nickel. The haul was worth HK$32 million in Hong Kong but would fetch about HK$50 million on the mainland.

The seizure was made on Saturday night at a secluded open-space cargo handling area in Fanling known to be a popular loading area for smugglers. Officers from the Customs and Excise Department had been watching the site for a week in difficult conditions.

'There was no high land in the area for us to set up observation posts,' a customs officer said. 'Our colleagues were deployed to filthy locations, including a nullah [drainage channel], to avoid detection from lookouts posted around the site.'

During the surveillance exercise, officers saw goods being loaded into a 40-foot container at the site. The container was delivered to a Kwai Chung terminal before being loaded on board a mainland cargo vessel on Saturday.

As the mainland-registered vessel was set to leave Hong Kong waters at about 8pm, customs officers intercepted it near the maritime boundary off Tuen Mun.

The smuggled goods were found hidden in one of the 14 containers aboard the 50-metre vessel.

'The declaration said the container held plastic beads. And there were plastic beads in the front of the container, but behind them were the smuggled goods,' Superintendent Chong Wai-ming said.

'Initial investigation showed the consignment was destined for Shunde in Guangdong.'

Chong said it was the department's biggest single seizure of computer disks and represented about 30 per cent of what local law enforcers seized in the whole of last year.

Officers believed the electrolytic nickel and integrated circuits were bound for mainland factories and the computer hard disks were destined for shops.

Eight mainland crew members were found on the boat. They were allowed to leave Hong Kong with their vessel on Sunday after helping with the investigation.

No one was arrested and the investigation is continuing.

Big mark-up

With a market value of about HK$32 million in Hong Kong, the haul's worth on the mainland would be about: $50m