Five people were jailed for between four and six years yesterday for smuggling over HK$2.6 billion worth of fuel oil into the mainland in fishing boats.
The five were connected with a Hong Kong company that sold 600 million litres of contraband fuel, enough to fill about 3.8 million barrels, District Court heard earlier in the trial.
The successful prosecution came after the Customs and Excise Department for the first time invoked the Evidence Ordinance to obtain testimony from witnesses on the mainland.
Prosecutors, defence lawyers and a judge attended an evidence-taking hearing in a Shenzhen court to obtain evidence used in the Hong Kong trial.
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.
The five, aged 27 to 54, were found guilty on various counts of conspiracy to export unmanifested cargo, and of money laundering involving 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.
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.
Hong Kong customs arrested the five in May 2010, after mainland authorities took action against the syndicate in January that year.