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Crime in Hong Kong

Five held as Hong Kong customs break up gang selling fake Chinese medicine to stores

About 4,000 items of counterfeit proprietary Chinese medicine with an estimated street value of HK$500,000 were also seized

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 6:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 6:46am

Hong Kong customs officers have broken up a local syndicate that supplied counterfeit Chinese herbal pills and medicated balm to local retail outlets.

The alleged ringleader, a 29-year-old woman, was arrested along with her parents at a warehouse in Chai Wan, in eastern Hong Kong Island, which was used as a storage and distribution centre for the fake goods.

Another two men, who worked as salesmen, were picked up when officers raided two drug stores in the Mong Kok area of Kowloon, the Customs and Excise Department said.

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About 3,500 boxes and 500 bottles of counterfeit proprietary Chinese medicine with an estimated street value of HK$500,000 (US$64,100) were seized at the warehouse and retail outlets raided on Monday.

“It is the biggest seizure of this kind in the past three years,” Guy Fong Wing-kai, head of customs’ Intellectual Property Investigation (Operations) Group, said.

The fakes were of products from three Hong Kong brands – Wong To Yick, Bull Head and Nan Lien – and one mainland Chinese brand, Beijing Tong Ren Tang, and were mostly used to treat joint pain, rheumatic arthritis or coughing.

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Fong said consumers were told the products were genuine, parallel-import goods for African and Southeast Asian countries where the standard of living was lower.

He said the fakes were sold for as low as 50 per cent of the retail price of genuine goods.

Product samples were sent to the government laboratory to test whether they were harmful.

The syndicate had been in operation for two or three months, Fong said, adding that officers were still investigating the source of the products. Further arrests were expected.

Customs officials began their investigation after a complaint about a month ago with undercover agents posing as consumers.

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The five suspects, all from Hong Kong and aged between 29 and 54, were released on bail.

Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, selling or possessing fake products carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a HK$500,000 fine.

Fong advised consumers to buy pharmaceutical products from reputable shops. He said customs would step up enforcement actions against counterfeit activities during the Lunar New Year.

Members of the public may report any suspicious activities to the customs 24-hour hotline at +852 2545 6182.