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Crime in Hong Kong

Customs seize 15,000kg of counterfeit rice from company that supplied to almost 100 restaurants in Hong Kong

Supplier would make mix of 10 per cent real rice and 90 per cent low-quality rice and could make a profit of HK$100 per bag, customs head said

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2018, 11:14pm

Custom officers have seized 15,000kg of counterfeit rice from a company that supplied almost 100 restaurants across Hong Kong.

Officers raided a factory in San Po Kong in Kowloon on Friday where they arrested a director of the company on suspicion of violating the Trades Description Ordinance. They later arrested a second director in relation to the case.

Some 600 sacks of counterfeit white rice, along with six tonnes of lower-quality rice and 1.6 tonnes of real, branded rice were seized in a 4,000 sq ft hidden compartment.

Officers also found 7,000 fake rice sacks, and estimated the stash was worth HK$178,000, the Customs and Excise Department said.

“We found that the supplier would generally mix 10 per cent of real rice with 90 per cent of low-quality rice to pass off as real goods,” said Guy Fong Wing-kai, head of customs’ Intellectual Property Investigation (Operations) Group.

The lower-quality rice, imported from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, was still edible and would not cause any harm to human health, but the taste and texture were inferior, he said.

Such rice was generally sold for half the price of premium brands.

“By mixing in the real and lower-quality rice together, the supplier could earn a profit of HK$100 per bag,” Fong said.

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The fake rice, which was mixed, packaged and sealed at the factory, imitated four established Thai brands: Chaitip, Golden Phoenix, Golden Vital King and Kim Kia Ta.

According to initial investigations, the supplier had been carrying out the covert operations for at least three months.

Receipts found at the scene showed that supplier was of a “considerable scale” and worked with close to 100 restaurants and cha chaan tengs, also known as local diners.

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Authorities do not have any figures on how much of the counterfeit rice had already been sold on the market.

Fong said the seizure was one of the largest in recent years. The last time they had seized such a large batch was 5,000kg of counterfeit rice in 2014.

According to official statistics, Hong Kong imported 313,500 tonnes of rice last year, 65.9 per cent of which was from Thailand.

The maximum penalty for violating the Trades Description Ordinance is five years of imprisonment and a fine of HK$500,000.