Police say smugglers are raiding parks to meet festive demand for 'lucky' trees Forty 'lucky' pines have been seized from a mainland-bound sampan as police step up action against theft of the trees in the lead-up to Lunar New Year. Two men alleged to be members of a tree-smuggling gang were arrested on the sampan that was seized after a chase by Marine Police northeast of Hong Kong on Monday night. The Shenzhen-bound boat was spotted with another sampan off the Ninepin Islands shortly after 7pm on Monday. The second boat escaped in the dark. Police and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department have stepped up patrols at sea and in country parks in an effort to curb theft of the trees which are in demand during festivals such as the Lunar New Year. 'With the approach of the Lunar New Year, we expect that there is a big demand for pine trees on the mainland as the trees are used as fung shui plants in residential and commercial units,' Superintendent Kong Sai-cheng, head of the Marine Police regional crime unit, said. Monday's seizure was the first at sea since last March, he said. The sea chase began when a police launch approached the three-metre, outboard-powered sampans, signalling them to stop. One was caught after a five-minute chase and two mainlanders aged 26 and 27 were found on board with the 40 trees measuring between 50cm and three metres. Superintendent Kong said the suspects told police that they were paid $300 to $400 each to transport the trees to Nanao in Shenzhen. They claimed that they came to Hong Kong at about 4pm on Monday to pick up the trees. Mr Kong said they were still trying to work out with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department where the trees were uprooted from. The trees may have come from Sai Kung, Po Toi Island or Cape D'Aguilar on Hong Kong Island. 'We do not rule out the possibility that other members of the lucky-tree smuggling gang are still in some remote part of Hong Kong uprooting fung shui trees,' he said. The pines are highly valued by mainlanders especially businessmen, who pay up to $100,000 for a specimen in good condition, according to Mr Kong. He said it was a serious, organised crime which damaged the environment. The two arrested mainlanders remained in custody last night. No charges had been laid.