Smuggling sentences upheld
SMUGGLING of all kinds must be contained, if not stopped, otherwise it would threaten the relationship between Hongkong and China, a Court of Appeal judge held yesterday.
It was important to maintain legitimate trade between the two territories and any violation was an erosion of Hongkong's system and lifestyle, said Mr Justice Litton, upholding the sentence in two separate smuggling cases.
Ng Wai-hung, 45, and So Lo, 43, had both pleaded guilty to attempting to export unmanifested cargo and Ng had also admitted a charge of exporting goods in a concealed compartment of a vehicle with intent to smuggle.
While Ng was sentenced to 12 months' jail by Magistrate Mr David Thomas, So was given a three-month jail term by Magistrate Mr Ian Candy. They both appealed against their sentences on the grounds they were excessive.
The court heard that in Ng's case, a goods vehicle on its way to China was stopped for a routine check by customs officers at Lok Ma Chau on June 25.
In a search, about 350 video cassette recorders and televisions were found in a secret compartment and Ng later admitted the goods were his and that he would earn $50,000 if he succeeded in smuggling them to China.
So was arrested when his fishing vessel with 263 cartons of assorted fresh fruit, worth $33,000, was intercepted by Marine Police near Basalt Island last December 1.
He would have earned $500 for the consignment and been reimbursed for the fuel.
Dismissing Ng's case, Mr Justice Litton said the court would not be doing its duty if the penalty was not increased in view of the growing problem in smuggling.
He noted that the counsel for Ng, Mr Christopher Grounds, on appeal had argued that a previous case in which the Chief Justice, Sir Ti Liang Yang, had increased the nine-month jail sentence to 12 months was confined to the smuggling of motorcycles.
Counsel also submitted that electronic goods fell into a different category, requiring a lighter sentence.
Mr Justice Litton, however, said he could not see any difference between the smuggling of motorcycles and video cassette recorders since both were prevalent crimes and both were high value goods which could bring substantial rewards.
While 12 months' jail was at the upper end of the sentencing range, the judge did not think the magistrate had erred.
In the case of So, Mr Justice Litton noted that the smuggling of fresh fruit to China was not a prevalent offence and the products carried a low value.
While the three-month jail sentence was harsh, it was neither incorrect nor manifestly excessive, said Mr Justice Litton, dismissing the appeal.
So was represented by Mr Barry Sceats on appeal.