THE Customs and Excise Department is stepping up operations to curb the smuggling of undeclared luxury cars through the territory to China. The department claims many smugglers are declaring cars destined for China by sea as cheap materials, such as sheet metal or cans, to beat mainland duty. The moves came after officers seized 12 left-hand drive cars and 280 televisions on board a Chinese vessel off Lamma Island on Monday. The Assistant Superintendent of the Prosecution, Intelligence and Investigation Division, Nora Ko Lai-yee, said the vehicles, including four BMWs and a Mercedes-Benz, were described in the ship's manifest as aluminium cans. The televisions were listed as spare parts. By law, all goods on board a container ship in Hong Kong must be stated in its manifest, even when re-exported to another destination. Ms Ko said such luxury vehicles, which she estimated to be worth around $4 million, attracted high taxes on the mainland and could fetch up to $11 million once on the market. She said the televisions were worth about $1.4 million. 'Hong Kong Customs are now paying more attention to this sort of smuggling,' she said. 'Smugglers always change their tactics or else they will be easily caught.'