Three sampans loaded with $1.42 million worth of smuggled cigarettes were found camouflaged with mud and branches in mangroves near the Mai Po Nature Reserve early yesterday. The nine-metre boats, each with an outboard motor, were spotted on radar entering Hong Kong waters near Tsim Bei Tsui from Shenzhen at 1.30am, police said. The sampans, which had no navigation lights, sailed into the mangroves, Inspector Tse Wing-cheong of Marine west police said. Four police craft were sent out, while officers searched the shore. Officers on the vessels saw six men running away at 2.30am, but they had vanished before the shore searchers arrived. Minutes later the three mainland boats were found abandoned in mangroves, Inspector Tse said. 'Aboard each of the three boats, smuggled cigarettes were found,' he said. 'Smugglers camouflaged the boats by putting mud and branches on top of the goods to make them look like mangroves.' He said it was the first time smuggled goods had been found camouflaged and hidden in mangroves. The consignment, which police believe was for local consumption, contained 95 cartons of brands such as Marlboro, YSL and Cartier. Inspector Tse said mangroves covered a vast area and it was difficult to find illicit goods that had been camouflaged. He said police would step up patrols in Deep Bay. In a separate case, customs officers seized $1.63 million worth of illicit cigarettes after intercepting a mainland wooden boat off Tung Chung at 12.30am. Four mainland crew members - three men and a woman - were arrested aboard the former fishing boat. The vessel came from Dongguan , Guangdong. Lai Wai-hing, divisional commander of the Customs Marine Strike and Support Division, said the boat was intercepted after it was seen sailing without lights. 'Most of the consignment was found hidden inside two converted fuel tanks. The boxes had been labelled foam tableware to disguise the haul,' he said. The four mainlanders were being held for questioning last night and no one had been charged.