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Taiwan

Illegal guns and ammo worth US$1.34 million seized in Taiwan after passing through Hong Kong

Six people arrested – but not the mastermind – in largest such weapons seizure headed to the island in 10 years

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2018, 11:23pm

Taiwan police have confiscated illegal firearms worth at least US$1.34 million shipped through Hong Kong in the biggest seizure of weapons headed to the island in 10 years.

Officers also arrested six people but none of them was the gunrunning mastermind, a spokesman for the force said on Saturday.

“The firearms – 109 in total along with 12,378 rounds of ammunition – were found inside two large injection moulding machines in a container,” Criminal Investigation Bureau officer Chen Kuan-liang told the Post.

The illegal firearms were shipped by a Guangzhou-based courier to northeast Taiwan through Hong Kong.

“Customs agents became suspicious of the shipment after it arrived in Keelung Harbour and went through customs on April 29,” Chen said.

They immediately notified police after finding the two machines contained the contraband, he added.

Asked if the weapons had anything to do with Hong Kong or mainland China, the officer said the possibility would not be ruled out although the likelihood would be very low.

“None of the weapons were made in either Hong Kong or China,” Chen said. He noted the 109 long-barrel guns and handguns were from 32 brands and had been manufactured in 13 countries, including the United States, Austria, Germany, Australia and Brazil.

The firearms and ammunition were estimated to have a total market value of between NT$40 million (US$1.34 million) and NT$50 million.

Chen said police formed a task force to track down the motives behind the weapons shipment.

On Friday, they learned the weapons had been delivered to a warehouse in the urban district of Sanxia, just outside Taipei. Officers first arrested a man identified as surnamed Chen, 24, who claimed he was hired to move the shipment at a cost of NT$100,000. He was said to have told police he had no idea guns were hidden inside.

The officer said police later arrested five other men who were also hired as movers.

We are still hunting for the main suspect
Chen Kuan-liang, Taiwan police

“We are still hunting for the main suspect,” the officer added.

A Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department spokesman refused to comment on the case, adding the authority would act on intelligence as well as conduct risk assessment and random inspections on incoming or departing parcels, goods, passengers and luggages.

“According to the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance, a person must obtain a licence from the police commissioner if he or she possesses any air gun from which a bullet can be discharged with a muzzle energy greater than two joules,” the spokesman said. “Customs would call police for follow-up action if we discovered controlled guns or air pistols.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person who imports any prohibited articles not under and in accordance with an import licence commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of HK$500,000 (US$65,690) and two years in jail.

On media reports that the weapons were being shipped to Taiwan to disrupt the year-end local government elections, Chen said the talk was speculation and that no links could be found so far.

The 109 guns consisted of 102 handguns, five long-barrel guns, a submachine gun and a shotgun.

The five long-barrel guns included three powerful US-made Bushmaster rifles, which are able to fire 700 to 900 shots per minute and can hit targets between 800 and 1,000 meters, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s interior minister Yeh Jiunn-rong expressed determination to continue efforts to root out weapons trafficking and keep the island safe, the Central News Agency reported.

Additional reporting by Christy Leung