Officials search for illicit mainland plant after $5m seizure by customs in HK Customs officials have requested help from their mainland counterparts to track down an underground manufacturing plant after a huge haul of fake Marlboro cigarettes - worth up to $5 million - was seized in Hong Kong. The cigarettes were found in a container truck on Tuesday and were believed to be heading for the Philippines, customs said. The truck driver, 59, was arrested after 401 cartons were discovered inside a cargo compartment. He has been released on bail of $20,000 pending further investigation. Half of the 4 million cigarettes were loose sticks but had the Marlboro label stamped on them, while the rest were in packets with the fake brand name, said Max Lau Tak-choi, head of customs' anti-illicit cigarette investigation division. 'We believe that there is a demand for loose sticks in some countries where the standard of living is low and residents cannot afford to buy whole packets,' he said. 'It is the first time that we have discovered illicit cigarettes in such a fashion.' Mr Lau said each cigarette could be sold for as little as 10 cents in the Philippines. Because of the large haul, officials were seeking co-operation with mainland and overseas authorities to track down the masterminds. The consignment was discovered when customs officers intercepted the container truck for inspection at Cha Kwo Ling public cargo handling area in Yau Tong at 10am on Tuesday. The waterfront area was one of the black spots for the transfer of illicit goods in the city, officers said. Mr Lau said the consignment was to be transported to the New Territories and stored in a container yard before being smuggled out. 'Preliminary investigations showed that the fakes were smuggled into Hong Kong from Guangdong via a sea route,' Mr Lau said. 'We believe the haul was destined for the Philippines as 'Made in the Philippines' was printed on some of the packages.' He said Hong Kong's officers would follow up the case with mainland and overseas authorities in an attempt to find the underground manufacturing plant and the buyer. Mr Lau said the consignment of fake cigarettes was the largest seizure of its kind this year. The number seized dropped by about 50 per cent to 7.3 million sticks in the first four months of this year from about 14 million sticks in the same period last year. Customs officers seized 46 million sticks of contraband cigarettes last year, a 25 per cent drop from 61 million sticks in 2004.