Five people were jailed for between four and six years, on Friday, for smuggling more than HK$2.6 billion worth of fuel oil into the mainland by boat.
The five were connected with a Hong Kong company that sold 600 million litres of contraband fuel, enough to fill roughly 3.8 million barrels, District Court heard earlier.
After a 58-day trial in District Court, Sze Mei-mun, Chung To-chuen, Lee Pak-lam and Lai Sheung were jailed for six years. Lee Wing-fung was jailed for four years.
Mr Justice Stephen Geiser also disqualified Chung and Lee Pak-man from being a company director for five years.
The five, aged 27 to 54, were found guilty on various counts of conspiracy to export unmanifested cargo, and of dealing with property known or believed to represent the proceeds of an indictable offence. The laundering charges involve HK$3 billion.
The court earlier heard that the syndicate was formed around 2009 to smuggle marked oil – diesel specified for use in industry or at sea – from Hong Kong to the mainland by boat. It is illegal to use marked oil in a motor vehicle except those specified by law, or to sell or supply it.
Fishermen were recruited to sail fishing vessels – modified to carry large amounts of fuel – to Hong Kong. There they collected the marked oil and transported it back to the mainland, prosecutors told the court earlier.
The fishing boats collected the oil from barges moored in Hong Kong, paying barge workers for it. Each trip was made on the instructions of the syndicate on the mainland. Individual ships could make up to 20 trips a month.
Prosecutors said the syndicate sold 606 million litres of marked oil in a total of 5,807 deals.
Hong Kong customs arrested the five in May 2010, after mainland authorities took action against the syndicate in January that year.