64 held in crackdown on milk-formula smuggling ahead of Lunar New Year

Customs step up enforcement of two-tin limit ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:57am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 January, 2014, 2:57am

The city stepped up operations against the cross-border smuggling of baby milk formula ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, with the arrests of 64 people at the Lo Wu checkpoint over two days.

Some 70 per cent of those arrested were from the mainland. Customs officers also seized infant formula with a total market value of HK$150,000.

In the most serious case, one suspect was found with nearly 20kg of milk powder - well above the limit of 1.8kg per outbound traveller.

The alleged attempt to breach the two-tin limit, which the city introduced in March of last year in part to curb parallel-goods trading, was "organised and planned", the department said.

Suspects hurried to cross the border in groups in the last few hours before the gate closed to lower the chance of their luggage being checked. Some tried their luck between 3pm and 4pm, when customs officers were changing shifts.

"As the Lunar New Year is approaching, Hong Kong customs and mainland customs will step up enforcement action and continue to mount special operations to combat such illegal activities," Louise Ho Pui-shan, head of rail and ferry command of the Customs and Excise Department, said yesterday.

From Thursday until 2pm yesterday, customs arrested 29 men and 35 women aged between 19 and 81 on suspicion of parallel-goods trading.

Officers also confiscated 468 boxes and 68 tins of infant formula, including brands such as Cow & Gate and Frisco.

Suspects carried identical receipts bearing their names, phone numbers, the brands and quantities of the formula they were carrying and the name and phone number of the person in Shenzhen who was to collect their wares.

They would have earned HK$20 to HK$30 per tin, according to the receipts.

"Now that we've got the information on the receipts, we will investigate further and do not rule out that more suspects will be arrested," Ho said.

The last Lunar New Year holiday saw a serious shortage of some brands as mainlanders and parallel-goods traders snapped up much of the city's stock.