Valuable hauls: Hong Kong customs officers step up border inspections after surge in gold and silver seizures

Mainland Chinese people are thought to be smuggling bars out to avoid strict regulations and heavy taxes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 12:48am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 10:06am

The inspection of Hong Kong-bound vehicles arriving from mainland China has been stepped up at the city’s border checkpoints after a surge in cases of smuggled gold and silver bars, the Post has learned.

The latest smuggling case involving HK$11 million worth of gold was detected on Wednesday after frontline officers intercepted a luxury car for inspection at Shenzhen Bay immigration control point.

“During inspection, officers found 30 gold slabs concealed in a secret compartment near the mud flap of the vehicle’s front wheel,” a source with knowledge of the case said.

He said each slab weighed 1kg and the haul had an estimated street value of HK$11 million.

Customs officers arrested the male driver, 34, on suspicion of importing unmanifested cargo. The Hongkonger was released on bail pending further investigation.

According to the customs department, the alleged activity was in violation of the Import and Export Ordinance that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$2 million fine.

The source said the seizure was made after customs officers strengthened the inspection of cross-border vehicles at immigration control points.

It is understood that at least five cases of smuggling precious metals have been detected by customs officers this year – two more than for the same period last year.

Tonne of smuggled silver worth over HK$4 million seized in Shenzhen-Hong Kong checkpoint’s biggest metal-smuggling haul

Another source attributed the increase in the number of cases to the rising price of the precious metals this year. He explained that gold rose from US$1,060 per ounce earlier this year to more than US$1,300 last month.

When asked why gold and silver bars were being smuggled into Hong Kong, the source said: “Mainland traders who want to cash in precious metals face tightened regulations and pay hefty taxes on the mainland. Exporting them from the mainland is also highly restricted, so smuggling [into Hong Kong] surfaces.”

He said smugglers usually hid the gold and silver bars in concealed compartment or under the driver’s seat.

To combat such illegal activities, Hong Kong customs have enhanced inspections, including the use of X-ray machines at the city’s border checkpoints.

Members of the public may report any suspected smuggling activities to the department’s 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182.

On June 28, Shenzhen authorities intercepted and arrested 12 Hong Kong-bound travellers and seized 76kg of gold bars worth about HK$24 million at a Shenzhen immigration control point.

On May 22, nearly one tonne of silver slabs worth HK$4 million was found hidden in three Hong Kong-bound lorries at Man Kam To control point. Three drivers were arrested.